Cell phones are an integral part of American life whether at home, at work or, too often, in the car. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that at any given moment 800,000 drivers of are distracted by talking on handheld cell phones (NHTSA, 2009). This behavior has been shown to hurt and kill people. The National Safety Council, in 2010 concluded 1.6 million crashes (28 % of the total) are caused each year by drivers talking or texting. The American Automobile Association agrees. And two controlled studies reported by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety establish the fact pretty conclusively.
Some states, like Nevada, are very proactive in trying to minimize distracted drivers. The Nevada Department of Transportation has developed the “No Phone Zone Just Drive Pledge.” While these types efforts to prevent distracted driving and the car wrecks and injuries they cause are commendable, they cannot be seen as the only solution.
It is both common sense and scientific fact that when a driver takes his eyes off the road to text a message, dial a number or becomes absorbed in a conversation, his ability to concentrate on the road and his surroundings is diminished. Studies show that driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent. Driver distractions accounted for 5,870 deaths and an estimated 515,000 personal injuries that involved police crash reports in 2008, according to the NHTSA.
State Laws and Cell Phone Use while Driving
Cutting down on driver distractions and cell phone use while driving has been a goal of several states. A number have adopted laws that restrict cell phone use while driving. The importance of the cell phone in today’s society is reflected in the fact that no state completely bans all types of cell phone use while driving.
Idaho Law on Cell Phone Use or Texting While Driving
As of the writing of this blog post Idaho has no specific laws against texting while driving or talking on a cell phone while driving. The only law it has that might apply is its inattentive driving statute That statute is found in the Idaho Code at 49-1401(3).
In Idaho, in the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Legislative sessions, various bills were introduced to prevent hand held cell phone use or texting while driving in Idaho. A comprehensive summary of the various pieces of proposed legislation and discussion surrounding it can be found at Hands Free Info. All of these efforts, nine in total, failed. Now the AAA reports a recent survey showed 87% of Idahoans would support a bill that criminalized texting while driving. Other findings included that a “majority (59%) support legislative action prohibiting cell phones for any purpose while driving.” And also “nearly 8 in 10 Idahoans (79%) support legislative action to use enhanced penalties to deal with distracted drivers who use a cell phone or electronic device while driving.”
Whether Idaho will get some specific statute that has a chance to help prevent personal injuries and mayhem that arise from distracted drivers remains to be seen. To the extent these prohibitions make the roads safer, Holzer Edwards, and trial lawyers everywhere support distracted driving laws. We have all seen some of the tragedies that distracted drivers cause. A law prohibiting the behavior is not the only answer but its is a reasonable one that can prevent injuries from auto accidents or truck collisions in Ada County and across the state of Idaho.
The Idaho Legislature passed a texting ban during the 2012 legislative session. The statute goes in to effect July 1, 2012.
49-1401A. TEXTING WHILE DRIVING. (1) As used in this section, “texting” means engaging in the review of, or manual preparation and transmission of, written communications via handheld wireless devices. This definition does not include voice-operated or hands free devices that allow the user to review, prepare and transmit a text message without the use of either hand except to activate, deactivate or initiate a feature or function. (2) Texting, as that term is defined in subsection (1) of this section, while driving a moving motor vehicle shall constitute an infraction provided this does not apply to voice-operated or hands free devices that allow the user to review, prepare and transmit a text message without the use of either hand except to activate, deactivate or initiate a feature or function. Every person who violates this section shall be guilty of an infraction. A conviction under this section shall not result in violation point counts as prescribed in section 49-326, Idaho Code. In addition, a conviction under this section shall not be deemed to be a moving traffic violation for the purpose of establishing rates of motor vehicle insurance charged by a casualty insurer.
Some Types of Cell Phone Laws That Have Been Adopted in an Effort to Prevent Distracted Driving
A total of 35 States have enacted some sort of cell phone prohibitions while driving.
Hand Held Cell Phones – As of March 2010, seven states required the use of a hands free device for drivers talking on a cell phone. The use of hand held cell phones while driving is banned in California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Utah and Washington, plus Washington, D.C and the Virgin Islands. These laws are primary enforcement, with the exception of Washington. This means that a driver may be cited for using a hand held cell phone without other traffic offense.
Novice Drivers– 21 states and the District of Columbia that bans the use of a cell phone while driving for novice drivers. A novice driver is a person who has a learner permit or probationary license but has never had a full license.
School Bus Drivers – 17 states and the District of Columbia ban the use of cell phones for bus drivers while passengers are on the bus.
Text Messaging – 20 states and the District of Columbia ban text messaging for all drivers. In 15 of these states, and the District of Columbia, this is a primary enforcement. Some states have texting bans while driving only for specific drivers.
Our goal as Idaho’s Injury Lawyers is to help people who have been injured through the negligence of others. What we really hope is that people DO NOT need our services and have safe and injury free lives. A driver using his cell phone to talk or text who hurts you should be personally responsible for all the damages he causes. If you believe you have a personal injury claim, for a injury in Idaho from a distracted driver using a cell phone to talk or text, you should contact us immediately to help you understand your claim. We represent people throughout Idaho not just in Ada & Canyon County or Boise and Nampa. We have clients from Payette and Weiser to Rexberg and Rigby from Marsing and Melba, to Sandpoint and Wallace.