Thousands of auto accidents per year occur due to distracted driving. Taking one’s eyes off the road or hands from the wheel to text, change the radio station, eat or engage in other activities besides driving can lead to collisions. In 2018, 2,841 people in the US lost their lives because of distracted drivers. An estimated 400,000 others suffered serious injuries. In an effort to end distracted driving, Idaho and Meridian have passed related laws. Obeying these laws could reduce the number of distracted driving accidents in the state.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is a dangerous habit among thousands of vehicle operators in Idaho. It can refer to anything that diverts the driver’s attention away from the driving task. Distractions can be visual, manual and/or cognitive. In Idaho, state law defines distracted driving as anything that takes a driver’s attention away from the focus on driving. It can include electronic distractions, interacting with passengers and many other forms of distracted driving.
- Texting while driving
- Making phone calls
- Eating and drinking
- Fiddling with a GPS or radio
- Reaching for things inside the vehicle
- Reading a billboard
- Rubbernecking an auto accident
Causing an accident while driving distracted may place civil liability with the distracted driver. Idaho’s fault laws hold at-fault drivers financially responsible for crash-related damages. If a distraction led to a rear-end collision or another type of accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance provider may have to pay for damages.
Is it Legal to Eat and Drive in Idaho?
No law expressly prohibits drivers from eating while driving in Idaho. However, if eating behind the wheel leads to unsafe driving, reckless driving or broken traffic laws, the driver could face fines and penalties. It is against the law for a driver to engage in any activity that distracts him or her while driving enough to interfere with the ability to safely control the motor vehicle. If eating or drinking something makes the driver swerve into another lane, run a red light, speed or break a different traffic law, the driver could receive a ticket.Idaho’s Texting While Driving Law
Texting and driving is one of the most common and deadly forms of distracted driving. In 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated about 3% of drivers use handheld cellphones behind the wheel. The NHTSA also states that looking down at a cellphone for just five seconds while traveling 55 miles per hour is the same as crossing a football field blindfolded. Texting and driving is so dangerous because it absorbs the driver’s attention in three critical ways: visual, cognitive and manual attention.
Like many states, Idaho passed a texting while driving law to try to reduce the number of drivers using handheld cellphones behind the wheel. Idaho Statute 49-1401A makes it illegal to review, manually prepare or transmit written communications via handheld devices while driving a moving motor vehicle. The law does not apply to hands-free or voice-operated devices. The only time a driver may touch a handheld device while driving is to activate, deactivate or initiate a function. Drivers may also use their cellphones while stopped. It is a traffic infraction to break Idaho’s texting while driving law, punishable with a fine.
Meridian’s Hands-Free Ordinance
Meridian, Idaho passed a citywide Hands Free While Driving ordinance (Ordinance No. 19-1857), effective on November 1, 2019. This law prohibits drivers from using handheld wireless communication devices for any reason while driving on public streets or highways in Meridian. The law does not apply to police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other public safety first responders. It also does not apply if the driver has an emergency. The penalty for breaking Meridian’s city ordinance is a $90 fine, plus court costs, per infraction.
For more information on Idaho’s distracted driving laws or car accident lawsuits in Idaho, contact our firm today.