If you’ve purchased a car within the last decade, there’s a good chance its technology will let you make and receive telephone calls without ever touching your cellphone.
Motor vehicles produced these days, and for some time now, mostly are equipped with Bluetooth technology. And every year, the portion of vehicles on the road that do not include this equipment diminishes. Some non-equipped vehicles still stay on the road for a long time to come, but they will become rare.
It’s been more than a decade since the West Coast states of California, Oregon and Washington passed state laws prohibiting the handheld use of cellphones while driving, and many other states have done that as well. (Passengers, of course, still can use them.) The specifics of these rules are a little different in every state.
They did not come out of nowhere.
The National Safety Council has estimated cellphone use while driving is implicated in about 1.6 million car crashes every year. Nearly every state has regulated their use while driving in some way or another. Idaho has banned texting while driving, in common with nearly all the rest of the country.
In the case of more general no-handheld cellphones while driving laws, there was some complaint at first, but most people adjusted. Not everyone complies; cops still pull over drivers with some regularity for holding a smartphone while driving. (Any use of one, not just talking on the phone, is banned while driving.)
But increasingly, people actually have adjusted, either by using alternate technology, such as a car’s Bluetooth capacity, phone holders or other equipment. Or — imagine this — they increasingly seem to forego distracting conversations while managing a vehicle in heavy traffic. Either way, the smartphone-while-driving ban in these states, as in the many others that have placed them on the books for years, has been readily accepted.
Some Idaho cities have moved in that direction and others might. The state overall has not, yet.
There’s something positive to say about not being an early adopter of a new product or a new idea. Why not let someone else do it first, and let them, rather than you, work the bugs out of it? You can also get an indication of the value of an idea by seeing whether other states have backed off from it, although in this case, states have been tending to toughen rather than weaken cellphone/driving bans as years have passed. At this point, on this idea, in most of the states that have tried it, most of the bugs have been worked out. Idaho really can draw from the experiences of other states in fashioning a sensible policy in this area.
Idaho is still working on it. Legislation on the subject has been surfacing steadily in recent weeks. Some of it is negative; one is a measure similar to one from last session that would ban local government handheld-cellphone driving bans.
One of the bills proposed for this year’s Idaho legislative session means to expand and toughen the law on distracted driving generally. It is so sweeping that it has attracted concerns even from law enforcement.
But there is a limit to these things. If you required by law — and got compliance — on a rule saying that drivers must at all times sit up straight, keep both hands at the 10 and 2 spots on the wheel, look at nothing but the road or mirror and neither talk with anyone nor listen to any other non-car sounds, what you’d have after a while is a zoned-out, barely-thinking, non-alert driver.
In other words, distracted.
So where to draw the line? That’s where past experience and good judgment is supposed to come in.