Thursday, March 18, 2010

Council for deaf director supports ban on texting while driving

Council for deaf director supports ban on texting while driving

Steven Snow, executive director for the Idaho Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, said he supports a ban on texting while driving.

However, he believes Senate Bill 1352 should be expanded to included talking on cell phones as well.

Snow said Tuesday that current research shows that talking on a cell phone while driving is equally distracting.

While hearing drivers have the option of using hands-free devices, talking, or texting, most deaf and hard of hearing drivers rely solely on texting to communicate while on the road, he said.

The Idaho Senate passed the bill last week by a vote of 29-5. The bill now moves to the House for committee hearing.

If enacted, persons caught texting in their vehicles could be cited for inattentive driving, punishable by a $300 fine and up to 90 days in jail.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell.

McGee cited a number of studies, including research at the University of Utah, showing that using a handheld device while driving slows down a driver’s reaction time as much as a blood-alcohol level of .08, which is the legal limit of intoxication.

Texting is defined in the bill as engaging in the review of, preparation or transmission of typed messages via wireless devices. McGee said that includes e-mailing or publishing to Facebook or Twitter while driving a moving vehicle. If a vehicle is stopped, either on the side of the road, or at a stoplight, texting would be allowed.

“If this bill is enacted by the Idaho Legislature, it is very important that people are aware of the policy,” Snow said.

To date, 24 other states, including Utah, have banned texting while driving.