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Eye On Boise

Amendment defeated, texting bill still allows texting while driving by the adept

The anti-texting while driving bill, HB 141, has been amended in the House, but an amendment proposed by Rep. Bill Killen, D-Boise, was voted down narrowly in a voice vote. Other amendments, which sought to clarify the bill, passed unanimously, and Killen supported them as well. But they didn't change the main thrust of the bill: That it would become illegal to text while driving if doing so distracts the driver, but not if the driver is able to do so without becoming distracted. Killen said his amendment would "make it abundantly clear that texting while driving is prohibited for all drivers in Idaho. ... The purpose of this amendment is to remove any doubt in that regard. I urge your support."

Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, the bill's sponsor, said he thought that would confuse things, and Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, said the change could foreclose regulating some new high-tech means of communication that might come out in the future. Killen disagreed. His amendment, he said, merely adds "a generic term to cover the manual entry. The whole purpose of that language is to keep your hands on the wheel and not on this hand-held device. I've been told and I don't disagree that this will be difficult to enforce." He said the same could be said for the rest of the bill. "My point, though, is to send a message to everyone, young and old alike, regardless of the enforcement issue, that texting is not permitted on the roads of Idaho."

Because Killen's amendment was defeated, the version of the bill that now will move forward still permits texting while driving as long as it doesn't make the driver distracted; officers couldn't pull someone over for texting while driving unless they notice a change in driving that reflects distraction.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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