Proposed Ban On Cellphone Bans Fails In Idaho House Committee By Single Vote

Mar 1, 2019

Vigorous discussion and debate took place in the House Transportation and Defense Committee over a proposal to ban municipalities from instituting their own bans on cellphone use. While Idaho prohibits texting while driving, the legality of using a handheld device while behind the wheel varies throughout the state.
Credit Alex Weimer / Flickr

A proposed ban that would have prohibited cities from instituting restrictions on driving while operating a handheld cellphone died in a legislative committee this week.

The ban on bans didn’t pass by a single vote. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Chad Christensen of Ammon, said a primary purpose of his legislation was to fix inconsistencies throughout the state. Some municipalities across Idaho prohibit using a handheld device while behind the wheel.

Another argument Christensen made was that local governments simply don’t have the authority to ban using a phone while driving.

“Under Idaho Code, they do have the authority to create certain laws: speed limits, passing zones, one-way or two-way streets,” Christensen told the House Transportation and Defense Committee. “It does not include cell phone use in a vehicle.”

Lawmakers and officials testified for and against the proposal, including Ketchum Democrat Muffy Davis.

“As someone who has caused an accident from using a handheld cellphone, I do not think we need to go backwards,” Davis said. “I think we need to go forwards, and I like the idea of finding a solution instead of repealing one protecting local ordinances to decide and protect their decisions for what works for their communities.”

Following motions to hold the ban on bans in committee and one to pause it for two weeks, a third and final motion to advance the legislation to the House floor failed by a single vote.

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