Who Can Drive Safely AND Text?



Lots of buzz today about proposed laws to ban texting while driving. One source claimed truck drivers were 23 times more likely to crash while texting than not texting.

The Idaho branch of the American Automobile Association, AAA, endorses the idea of Idaho joining 13 other states banning texting while driving. But like everything else these days, politics and exemptions get involved.

Truckers say they need to text while underway for business reasons. We also must not forget the tragic fatal commuter train crash last year in Los Angeles caused when the driver was texting on a cell phone.

Just about everyone has seen a copper going down the road in Boise with his head buried in a computer, often as not trying to type with one hand while driving. Just last week we saw a Boise FD command vehicle pull out of a parking spot and immediately start texting on a computer while driving down Capitol Blvd.

Boise’s top copper told us he is a strong advocate of his coppers wearing seatbelts, but he couldn’t get aboard a law that prevented his guys and gals from reading a computer while driving. He likened their skills to airplane pilots who are able to monitor various screens in the cockpit while flying, and noted dispatch messages are delivered and updated to patrol cars via mobile computer these days.

The difference is the pilots aren’t navigating crowded streets with obstacles–like cars– only a few feet away from a collision at any moment. To add to the mix we have the ability to get HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY information via cell phone that has to be read and GPS directions which have to be viewed while driving. Of course there are all those radios and music devices which display titles and choices on a screen as well.

The GUARDIAN thinks it is downright dangerous for ANYONE to dial a phone, text, read a computer, watch TV, apply make up, shave, or eat a salad with a fork while driving a two ton vehicle capable of killing people.

We don’t necessarily endorse the idea of yet another law, but if a law IS passed, it should apply to one and all.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Rod in SE Boise
    Sep 28, 2009, 8:11 pm

    If proposed laws banning texting while driving are passed, they should apply to EVERYONE, no exceptions.

    Similarly, the ban on bicycles on certain gravel stretches of the greenbelt should apply to EVERYONE, no exceptions.

  2. Brianthedog
    Sep 28, 2009, 8:15 pm

    I would like to know how many miles a copper drives, or all the cops combined in a given month or year. Now lets see the crash to miles ratio compared to the rest of the motoring public. Just a thought. Multi-tasking is important for the police.

  3. Serendipity
    Sep 28, 2009, 8:16 pm

    Totally stupid to allow it. Should be outlawed. Tough if truckers don’t like it. They did just fine before palm pilots and texting appeared–not having it didn’t interfere with their biz at all. The truck lobby is too dang powerful—-again, follow the $$.

  4. Dr Spiegelvogel
    Sep 28, 2009, 9:44 pm

    Just last week a BPD car coming around the narrow part of Warm Springs Ave past Warm Springs Mesa crossed the yellow line while the officer was clearing using the built in computer on the dash board. He swerved to miss me.

    No law will be passed because 1) It infringes on our rights 2) It is being introduced by a Democart 3) It’s part of the government conspiracy to control out lives 4) We is dumb.

  5. Cops exceed the speed limit too. Is that wrong? Are we seriously suggesting that we take computers out of police cars?

  6. I’d appreciate if coppers would set the example by not texting and driving. Using turn signals would be appropriate as well. I see them signal for turns about half the time.

  7. Lucas, not an appropriate comparison. Cops are trained to navigate the streets safely during pursuits. They still have speed limits while in a pursuit and may even call off a pursuit if it becomes too dangerous for other motorists. Typing on a computer while driving, on the other hand, is downright dumb and absolutely dangerous for anyone else on the road. Should we allow cops to drive drunk too, just ’cause they’re police? …oh wait, that’s not a good comparison either, they already to that…

    I doubt BG is trying to suggest to remove laptops from cop cars, that makes no sense. We just want to see police officers operate their deadly vehicles with discretion and safe practices…pull over to use the computer.

  8. Virtually EVERY Boise City police officer I see each day is looking at their computer – and typing, or on their cell phone. I even saw a guy run a red light on Friday and there was an officer across the street driving and on the computer and he did not even see the crime.

    The officers need to set a better example. Even my kids notice this when they see the officers in their cars.

  9. The issue is whether an in-car mobile data terminal (MDT) is a distraction to an officer AND causes the officer to multi-task while driving. I think police and public safety MDTs are valuable. But the stats apply to police as they do citizens-distraction and multi-tasking from anything inside the police vehicle cause officer-involved traffic accidents. Fortunately, there is new technology that is limiting the effects from MDT usuage. Voice activated systems are very effective in reducing officers taking their attention off the road…as well as common sense of only using MDTs when the vehicle is not moving.

  10. I fully support the idea of banning texting while driving. Additionally, rules should go beyond that to ban cell phone use without a hands free device. Coppers and other emergency units should not be exempt. Has anyone looked inside a patrol car lately? There are enough wizbang doodads and gizmos to keep the geekiest geek entertained for days. Add to that, check out all the “bling” that coppers wear: guns, nightsticks, pepper spray, flashlights, portable radios, cell phones, recording devices, handcuffs, breath mints, and don’t forget those proctological taser units! OUCH! Seriously though, I think too much is being asked from the average patrol officer. There should be two officers in every cruiser that has a computer or other texting device. I’m not suggesting doubling the police force. I think that two person patrols would not only be safer for everyone, it would probably be a lot more efficent overall. Same amount of cops on the street, but half the vehicles.

  11. Why don’t they have voice programs for their computers that translate written messages to voice?

  12. I agree it should apply to everyone. I’ve been at a stop light and watched people break the law while driving, on cell phones while the cop next to me was busy on his cell phone or computer.

  13. Frankly, I do not get the urgency of all the calls and messages. I can remember a time before answering machines and voice mail and everything got done in a timely manner. Cell phones going off in movies, churches, seminars, school lectures, courtrooms???

    I do think hands free communication gear isn’t anymore of a threat to driving that chatting with someone in the car while driving. Texting is just plain stupid and should fall under the inattentive driving laws. I don’t care if the people doing it die, it is people in the oncoming lanes that could get killed or maimed I am concerned about.

    You can’t legislate common sense. The reall issue is the threat stupid people are to folks around them when they are texting in a car rolling down the road. It is selfish, self centered arrogance on their part and a clear and present danger to everyone else.

  14. sam the sham
    Sep 29, 2009, 8:46 am

    In agreement with Paul.
    Life worked well before texting, before cell phones, before faxes – and will work just fine if a law is passed enforcing safe, sane driving. Driving in traffic is multi-tasking in itself without adding more into the mix.

  15. What about cell phone use at all? Studies out there show its worse than drunk driving. There’s something more culpable about your mind wandering rather than being deliberately distracted, particularly when we have voice mail and the debilitating intervention into driving can be remedied by merely pulling over until its safe to resume.

  16. There is a law, its called Inattentive Driving. It would be just as easy to inforce as any no texting laws. How many traffic deaths occur due to adjusting the air conditioning, changing radio stations, yelling at the unruly kids in the back seat? Each case is different but, in all of them it involves a driver not paying attention to the road, thus inattentive driving. Creating new laws at the drop of every technological advance is not always necessary.

  17. TiggerBongo
    Sep 29, 2009, 1:29 pm

    There already IS a law! The infraction is called “inattentive driving”. Perhaps the legislature should increase the penalties, but we don’t need ANOTHER law.

  18. Well, Now that I am back in la-la land in DC, trust me, Boise’s drivers are great! I ride the rail here, but the drivers all sit texting and not paying attention. I don’t really think that Idaho needs the law, just judicial clarification of the inattentive driving code. Having driven police vehicles, I fully support the use of voice technology in police vehicles. This would increase the safety of the officers and the public. I know that BPD has started using more 2 officer “Tac” vehicles, which free’s up a passenger to use the MDT. Good conversation starter though.

  19. So how are the coppers supposed to check Facebook posts?

  20. I would like to see the penalties increased as Utah has done.

  21. Lucas: Yes cops speed — but they’re supposed to have their overheads and other flashers on when they do it — and sirens, too, when appropriate.
    Yet I see many of them speeding without flashers of any kind, and they can hit you just as hard as any other speeding car.
    Before computers in cars, I frequently saw cops driving along with the left hand on the wheel and the right hand (and direction of eyes) down on the seat, apparently filling out reports or something.
    One other thing on cops: When they get out of their cars on a traffic stop in their nice dark uniforms on a dark night, it’s impossible to see them. Have nearly hit an officer on several occasions because he stepped right out into the traffic lane without seeing that there was a car coming. Of course I pull to the left when passing a stopped cop car when I can, but on a two-lane road with oncoming traffic, not feasible. I realize they want to keep their eyes on the car they’ve pulled over, to make sure the driver isn’t going to jump and run or shoot them or something, but, c’mon, guys, a quick glance toward the back as you get out could save your life.
    Or get good, big reflective strips like most firefighters wear — we drivers can see them from as far away as our lights can hit them.

  22. One further thought on texting drivers: I think anyone texting while driving, whether cop, trucker, teen-ager or just John Doe driver, should not be cited or jailed; he or she should be taken in for mental evaluation. Taking one’s eyes and concentration off the road to send and read messages while driving certainly seems to indicate a serious lack of mental capacity.

  23. It’s pretty clear Wunderlich B. has only lived here for a couple of years.

    That pic at Camelsback looked the same 30 years ago, except for the fencing on the side.

    Environmental disaster? You wouldn’t know an environmental disaster if a VOC bit you on your pointy little head. Or maybe those VOCs from your painting business are getting to you. You know what they say, don’t get high on your own supply.

    Wilderness? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

  24. Grumpy ole guy
    Sep 30, 2009, 3:40 am

    Isn’t the point here that Idaho doesn’t have safety laws that are worth more than a few ounces of warm spit. Helmet laws for motor-cycle and non-motorized bikes, stringent fines for lack of seat-belt use, lack of jay-walking enforcement. These ALL would “do society good” if present and enforced. Texting while driving is not safe, Idaho law says that a driver should keep both hands on the steering wheel, but this law is widely disregarded by drivers and law enforcement personnel. Pass the law, but make the penalty stiff and enforce compliance. Otherwise we just encourage all of the scoff laws.

  25. A modest proposal….If it’s true that texting is as dangerous as a BAC of .08 or .10, then let’s pattern the new law after DUI law. Cops should be able to pull us over for no other reason that to see if we are texting. They should be able to demand to see our phone to check the texting record. Failure to comply would be an automatic forfeit of our license–or they could strap us down and take it from us. Penalties would be similar also. Driving is after all a PRIVILEGE as we have all been told.

  26. Mr. Watcher
    Sep 30, 2009, 8:59 am

    Remember pagers? For those folks that do not remember them, they showed a phone number and people with a pager would stop and use a pay phone or go home or to the office to return the phone call. Now lets speed forward into our times today. All cells have a GPS chip in them, as federal laws demand. The cell phone companies can track any phone and know its speed of movement between two towers. All that needs to be done is turn the cell into a pager when its moving over 10 mph. If people want to see their text message they need to pull over. If they want to make a phone call, they need to pull over. Of course all 911 calls will go through no matter the speed.
    For all the selfish crybabies that say, I’m a passenger in a car so why should my cell be unable to be used? My answer is the same as, why should I pay more in property taxes because I work harder to provide my family with a nicer home and I get no more or faster services for paying a lot more in property taxes. Live with it!
    Keep in mind that pagers kept everyone in the loop so there is no reason whatsoever that blocking the cell from being anything but a pager in speeds over 10 mph will cause any real hardships.
    Frankly, I could very well live without a cell phone and go back to a pager and I do business world wide. In fact doctors did very well with pagers in being able to save lives when seconds mattered.
    We all know someone who has been killed on the roads by a drunk driver. I believe in ten years we will all know someone that was murdered on the roads by some selfish creep on a cell phone.

  27. Mr. Watcher
    Sep 30, 2009, 9:06 am

    erico49, are you joking?
    You trust people like the cop that tased the victim in the butt over and over why yelling sick things about what he was doing. Say nothing about his supervisor that tried to bury the event which was breaking the law by doing so.
    You have far more trust in government than anyone I’ve ever run into. Fact of the matter is all the time you hear its only a few rotten apples that make the whole police force look bad. Then how come we never see the good apples point out the bad ones? Name one time in the last ten years where other cops pointed out the bad apples. You can’t which speaks volumes.

  28. “I know that BPD has started using more 2 officer “Tac” vehicles, which free’s up a passenger to use the MDT. ”
    Mr. Wills is referring to the “co-pilot” model that ambulance drivers use, which is ideal. We should judge based on results (like whether Police have worse driving stats since the start of computer use).

  29. The comment made by Boise’s top cop only shows his ignorance. Comparing an airline pilot monitoring his instrumentation and police using their computers as they drive is like comparing apples and doughnuts. Not even close. It takes a long time for a pilot to receive their instrumentation rating, and they have air traffic control keeping them aware of any aircraft near them. From what I have been told, the POST Academy teaches driving techniques and how to use their MDTs; but not at the same time. Can the Chief refute this? And to further his analogy of pilots, does dispatch keep the cruisers aware of every vehicle in their vicinity that is approaching them, leaving a parking lot, or making a turn? Bottom line Chief, when your officers are using their MDTs and driving at the same time, it’s dangerous for everyone. Come on Chief…let’s hear it. Your rebuttal is welcome.

  30. The Boise Picayune
    Sep 30, 2009, 1:48 pm

    “Cops exceed the speed limit too. Is that wrong?”


    No one needs to text and drive. Not even Brain Surgeons and Rocket Scientists.


    Moreover, I’ve always wondered how much “Community Policing” (as opposed to what?) is being done when the patrol car is speeding (not in response to an emergency) down a residential street, windows rolled-up, A/C cranked, and the cop is chatting on a cell phone.

    I’m thinking… None!

  31. Watcher… I am suggesting that we gladly put up with those tactics for DUI enforcement but balk at the idea for texting… which has been shown to be more dangerous than DUI at levels of .08 or .10. I can think of 2 reasons. 1. we really don’t think they are right for DUI, but don’t want to oppose the tactics in public or 2. We believe that only bad people drink, but everyone texts.

  32. William Jarrett
    Oct 2, 2009, 12:01 am

    Mr Watcher,

    You speak as a man of obviously no real practical knowledge of law enforcement and as a man who is firmly entrenched in the belief your government is out to get you. All police are corrupt in your view and are all bad people.

    Did it ever cross your mind that in this business if any officer who demonstrates any kind of corrupt behavior around myself or other good cops that we would not stand for it and that these bad apples know that? What do you think the odds are they will flagrantly do these things in front of us knowing their actions would hurt the rest of us and we won’t tolerate them either and would bury them faster than you can say “Call the Rat Squad !”

    Just because one dentist took advantage of an unconscious patient doesn’t make them all perverts does it? Should all the other dentists have have been clairvoyant enough to have seen this one coming and done something about it? How about all them school teachers having sexual relations with kids. Using your logic all teachers are perverts and use their job as an excuse to get close to kids. If someone in your profession turned out to have got a DUI or violated some other law should we hold everyone in your profession responsible? You hold me to a higher standard and rightly so, however your standards are obviously way above and beyond reasonable as you apply them to police officers. You have a very jaded outlook on life sir. I suggest you get to know some police officers before bashing them.

    As far as the computers go, great tool, but you have to be careful. Just because you can run a guys plate and drivers license from your terminal doesn’t always make it the best idea while driving. Usually its better to take the longer method and call it over the radio through dispatch. Trying to type and drive is a distraction. Your next question will obviously be “well why do all of you coppers do it then”. My response is not all of us do, and you are labeling and trying to lump all police into one group which fits your jaded outlook on law enforcement.

    Don’t ask me what is going on in another mans head. Why do people speed? Why do people kill? Who really knows? I love the computers they are a great tool, but they have their disadvantages too.

  33. From an airplane pilot’s point of view… if I was reading text on a computer as I was touching down… it would be a very harsh landing.

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