Dialed in on a cell phone ban?

Lawmakers again mull driving proposals; AAA seeks testimonies

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AAA is not hanging up on banning the use of handheld devices while driving.

The travel organization is working with lawmakers again this session to ban using such devices behind the wheel.

And its lines are open to those who have had a scary moment on the road.

"We're trying to build a credible case to show the frequency of distractions involving cell phones and other handheld devices," AAA Idaho spokesman Dave Carlson said. "We want to hear about experiences Idahoans are having firsthand, including real crashes and near hits involving distracted drivers.

"We believe the information collected would be beneficial in telling lawmakers what is currently going on behind the wheel."

Transportation officials say distracted driving is the most prevalent contributing circumstance of multiple-vehicle crashes and second most prevalent for single-vehicle crashes.

Josie Tennison, a Post Falls High senior, made a video on the dangers of texting and driving for her Business Professionals of America project. While she admits to texting while driving, she said she does it much less after she made the video.

"It's more eye-opening when you know the facts about it," Tennison said. "Sometimes people think that they're invincible and believe one little text is fine. They think that the text is important, but really it's not worth it."

Studies demonstrate that the eye, cognitive and tactile distractions associated with texting make this particular distraction more dangerous than others, Carlson said. One in five drivers may be texting at any given time.

But others question whether Idaho needs a ban as a rural state.

"I just don't believe we need it," Jane Crews said on Wednesday, while filling up with gas in Post Falls. "There's not as many drivers on the road here as there in other states. Idaho is one of the last states to not go there, and I'm hoping it'll stay the course. It's nice to live in a place that's somewhat lax on restrictions."

However, AAA believes stronger educational efforts and a law banning texting while driving make sense.

Most of the 30 states that have passed such laws have done so in the past two years, and most of the remaining states, including Idaho, are considering such legislation again.

Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, has drafted two bills.

One bill bans cell phone use, making it an infraction with a $75 fine. A second bill defines texting and makes it an infraction with a $50 fine.

"Technically, either could be used to address the same types of driver distraction," Carlson said.

Tennison said she and many other young drivers believe a ban is warranted.

One bill was considered up until the final minutes of the session last year, but died on a procedural motion.

If legislation fails again, the city of Coeur d'Alene has already said it would impose its own citywide rule.

To share your experience involving using handheld devices while driving, contact Carlson at (208) 658-4401 or dave.carlson@aaaidaho.com.

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