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Texting While Driving Ban Goes Into Effect July 1

Violation could lead to $81.50 fine

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As of Sunday, July 1, texting and driving is illegal in the state of Idaho, becoming a primary offense, meaning texting drivers can be pulled over without having committed any other traffic violation.

"It's another tool for parents to tell their teens that they cannot text in the car because it is dangerous," said Boise Police Department spokesperson Lynn Hightower.

Boise Police have been training alongside other law enforcement agencies in preparation for the new ban. Using a philosophy of "educate first and enforce when necessary," Hightower said Boise officers will issue warnings and educate offenders before doling out citations. She said the tactic, similar to the city's implementation of its smoking ban in restaurants, bars and parks, is expected to have "more-effective compliance."

"What the department has found when new ordinances take effect is that people want to follow the law," said Hightower. "Most folks appreciate being law abiding."

But those who don't abide face a possible $81.50 fine.

The Idaho Legislature held up previous efforts to ban texting while driving, primarily over vague interpretations of what exactly constitutes texting. Under the new law, texting will include everything from typing in a text message to using Facebook or Twitter, but will not include typing in a phone number.

"With this bill, even sending a tweet would be considered 'texting,'" said Coeur d'Alene Republican Sen. James Hammond when presenting the 2012 measure.

Unlike inattentive driving, which is a misdemeanor that can result in a three-month jail sentence and possible fines totalling $1,000, texting and driving will be an infraction.

"It's an officer's discretion," said Hightower. "But this allows them to issue a ticket that is not quite as severe as inattentive driving."

Officers are being trained to determine if a person operating a car is in fact texting or typing in a phone number. However, without either consent or a search warrant, officers may not have the authority to search or handle drivers' cellphones.

"This law does not allow anything different," said Hightower. "Officers should only handle your cell with your consent."

On July 1, Idaho will join 36 other states that currently enforce texting and driving bans as a primary offense.

"This is not just about texting. It's another reminder that tragedies can happen when we take our minds and our eyes off the road," said Hightower.

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