Gov. Butch Otter has signed HB 1274a, the bill banning texting while driving, into law. The new law, which passed this year after three years of unsuccessful attempts in the Legislature to enact such a ban, makes texting while driving an infraction. Idaho currently has misdemeanor penalties for inattentive driving, but unlike most states, no specific law banning texting while driving.
Two years ago, a ban that had passed the Senate died on the final night of the legislative session in the House, when then-Rep. Raul Labrador, now an Idaho congressman, used a parliamentary maneuver to force a two-thirds vote. The bill failed, with just a 37-30 majority. Last year’s version would have banned texting while driving if it distracted the driver, but not if it didn’t; it failed.
This year’s bill got strong support in committee hearings, from teens to law enforcement to the AAA to to insurers. It also got a solemn boost when an 18-year-old Caldwell woman, Taylor Sauer, died in January in an Idaho freeway crash while texting. Her surviving family members offered tearful testimony in favor of the bill in committee hearings in both houses.
Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d'Alene, sponsored this year's bill, a simple, one-page measure; the new law takes effect July 1.