City Considers Texting Ban

Most people understand that texting and driving is a bad idea, but some wonder if we should pass an extra law making it illegal.  I say “extra” because we already have inattentive driving laws.

The public's wondering may come to fruition as the Idaho Falls City Council is considering an ordinance banning texting while driving.
There are a couple advantages to a texting law.  First, officers may be a little quicker to write an infraction rather than slam someone with the more expensive “Inattentive Driving” which carries stiffer penalties and adds more driving points.  It would also be a primary offense requiring no supporting evidence such as drifting or impeding traffic.  Some like the idea of passing a texting law to “make a public statement” hoping that many people will comply because it’s the law.
On the downside, enforcement is trickier.  How does the officer know if the person is texting or dialing?  The enforcement side could be easier by requiring hands-free operation of cell phones, but most people don’t like the idea of restricting talking on cell phones which isn’t nearly as dangerous as texting while driving.
The “making a public statement” with a law that is unenforceable has an unintended consequence.  I’m generally opposed to passing unenforceable laws because it degrades the respect for the rule of law.  In this case, it’s a little of both.  The law wouldn’t be completely unenforceable, but it would be tough to enforce.  Case-in-point. my daughter can shove her hand in her purse and covertly text her friend while carrying on a seemingly intelligent conversation.
Others don’t like the nanny state approach of passing “one more law to interfere with our lives.”  This parallels the argument that texting is no different than reading a book or putting on make-up while driving.  Are we going to outlaw that too?  The counter is that texting is a risky behavior endangering other drivers that it is similar to drunken driving.  We don’t wait until the crash happens to punish drunk drivers because the risk is so high and the cause & effect is so direct.
I polled the police officers on our department and the results might surprise you.  19.2% supported a texting law because:
1.       They liked the infraction option
2.       They thought texting while driving is just too dangerous
But a whopping 80.8% opposed it listing the following reasons
1.       Difficulty of enforcement
2.       There is already a law that covers it (Inattentive Driving)
3.       The desire to keep government from over-reaching

If you have an opinion, I’d like to hear it.  Better yet, let the City Council know how you feel.