Texting while driving or crossing the street is stupid. We know that. (Whether we follow our own advice is something else, of course.) Concerns about a "nanny state" aside, having a law prohibiting the practice in Rexburg may not be the smartest way to attack the problem.
According to a 2010 study by the Highway Loss Data Institute, texting-while-driving bans increase the number of crashes.
"If drivers were disregarding the bans, then the crash patterns should have remained steady," said Adrian Lund, president of the HLDI and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in a news release. "So clearly, drivers did respond to the bans somehow, and what they might have been doing was moving their phones down and out of sight when they texted, in recognition that what they were doing was illegal. This could exacerbate the risk of texting by taking drivers' eyes further from the road and for a longer time."
The matter of enforcement is a sticky issue, too. The obvious problem is that police may have trouble distinguishing between drivers answering phones and drivers texting.
And how is "texting" defined? Can people still send and look at images while driving or crossing the street?
We are especially worried that this may be a way for the city to target students.
Many people who live here come and go with BYU-Idaho's semesters. Unless the city makes a huge effort to educate students and others (with billboards, signs, fliers, regular meetings, etc.), this could become a way to bleed more money out of a part of the economy Rexburg depends on.
Studies and common perception show that teens and 20-somethings text more than other segments of the population, and university students represent a huge chunk of that demographic.
We've seen this kind of discrimination before with parking around the university - residents don't pay for permits, but students do. Squeezing more out of students may be a good way to fill city coffers, but it's wrong.
To the City Council, we ask, why is the distracted driving ordinance already on the books inadequate? You've done a great job educating people about pedestrian safety - why can't you educate your guests and citizens on this issue instead of passing a law that appears to have little vocal support outside of City Hall?
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." - Henry David Thoreau
- Robert Patten
Our View represents the majority opinion of the Standard Journal Editorial Board.