January 16, 2012 in Idaho

Poll: 87% of Idahoans favor texting-while-driving ban

By The Spokesman-Review

BOISE – A new statewide survey shows that 87 percent of Idahoans favor a ban on texting while driving – including 78 percent who say they’d strongly support it.

“It’s higher than we would’ve guessed,” said Dave Carlson, spokesman for AAA of Idaho, which commissioned the statewide poll by Riley Research Associates of Portland.

Yet Idaho lawmakers, who’ve struggled with the issue for the past two years, still haven’t passed anything and Idaho doesn’t ban texting while driving, unlike at least 30 other states.

“I’ve already got a texting bill sitting on my desk that I had drawn up,” said Idaho Senate Transportation Chairman Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene. “I hope we can move forward with it, just to take care of those concerns.”

Two years ago, a texting-while-driving ban was killed on the final night of Idaho’s legislative session, despite having won majority support in both houses, when then-Rep. Raul Labrador, now a congressman, used a parliamentary maneuver to require a two-thirds vote in the House. The bill got a 37-30 majority - not two-thirds.

Last year, Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, proposed compromise legislation he described as “truly a piece of sausage” that would have banned texting if it distracted the driver, but not if it didn’t; that didn’t pass.

“I think we’ve tripped over the details,” Carlson said. “There’s been a naysayer for every bill that’s been brought, including, as you might recall, AAA last year, because we were hoping for something a little bit stronger.”

Carlson, who is the lobbyist for the motorists’ group in Idaho, said his group is “shopping legislation right now” to ban texting while driving, and is hopeful that lawmakers will either sign on or come up with their own proposals.

The new poll is fodder for those arguments. Among 400 likely Idaho voters surveyed statewide Nov. 23-30, support was strongest for a simple ban on texting while driving; only 11 percent opposed that, and just 3 percent were undecided. Next-most popular, at 79 percent support, was an enhanced penalty for moving violations while using a cell phone or other electronic device.

Support fell to 59 percent for a ban on using a cell phone for any purpose while driving.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

AAA also asked about two other issues in its poll: Eliminating state funding for driver training in schools, which 84 percent opposed; and raising gas taxes or registration fees to fund transportation improvements, which only 38 percent supported.

Hammond said, “That doesn’t surprise me a bit, because quite frankly, every time you and I fill up our gas tanks it kinda hurts, so to add to that pain with an additional gas tax right now just doesn’t seem to make sense.”

Hammond said the Senate Transportation Committee likely will consider introducing his texting-while-driving bill next week.

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