Emergency Service

Emergency Texters, A National Issue

The Idaho House of Representatives is about to consider a “no texting bill” that passed the Senate Wednesday.

Interestingly, we don’t see any exemptions for coppers and firefighters. The Fed transportation people, AAA, and just about everyone who has watched a car weaving slowly down the road agree that reading and writing on computers while driving is as dangerous as DUI.

It makes no sense to allow coppers–or anyone else–split their attention from driving to texting and today the NEW YORK TIMES ran a front page story about the dangers. Good to see how the world comes around to the GUARDIAN line of reasoning!

Here is a great quote from the TIMES story that spells out the reality:

“There’s no way you could do this without eventually running into something,” said Officer Shawn Chase, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol, as he demonstrated use of the Gateway computer in a cruiser. And yet, he said, he has tried it, and others have, too.
“The first time you almost rear-end something, you say, ‘Whoa, I better not do this,’ ” he said. “You learn quick.”

UPDATE 3/12/10–The GUARDIAN talked to Idaho State Police Lt. Brian Zimmerman about coppers texting and driving. He said ISP troopers generally use the computer after they are stopped–calls are not dispatched or updated via computer.

“Even with drunks, at least they are looking at the road. They don’t do a good job driving, but they are TRYING and not looking somewhere else,” said Zimmerman.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. OK before the rants begin on another copper bashing, I will get my 2 cents in. Lets look at how many officers, fire guys and paramedics drive around Boise while using their computers. Everyday were talking probably 80-100, times 365 days a year, and how many accidents are there involving police, fire and paramedics? A fraction of the amount that drive daily, so, lets not just begin to say it is wrong unless you have some stats to back it up.

    EDITOR NOTE–Steve, do you question the CHP, FDNY, USDOT, AAA, MADD, and ISP? No copper is gonna own up to “inattentive” when he can claim a patch of ice, dog, or bicycle caused him to bump a curb or scrape a post. On the road other motorists tend to avoid the “Big White Stallion” with a light bar. Go talk to the legislature and tell them not to bash cops by passing a law aimed at safety.

  2. semi-serious
    If texting is truly more dangerous than DUI, why don’t we adapt DUI tactics to texting enforcement. For example, you could be stopped for little or no reason (in some places, randomly) and be forced to surrender your phone to the officer who would check to see if you had been texting. Should it be determined that you have been texting, your license would be seized on the spot and you would be jailed. You would then be presumed guilty until you could prove your innocence.

    The answer is, of course, that either texting is not that serious or that only bad people drink and they deserve whatever happens to them–while texting is morally acceptable.

  3. I’ve heard there are places where ALL the Police/EMS/Fire, except the cops on the highest priority, must not speed. They can change lights, but must stop at stop signs… the lost time is not much, and it’s a bunch safer for the public they are to serve and protect. (Although it probably takes the fun out of the job.)

    If you know where one of these places is, it would be nice to know more about the reasons and the results.

    BIG Brother? Texting police? That would be easy. They can just get your phone bill/GPS location records and send a ticket for whenever the phone was moving.

  4. Steve Lewis
    Mar 11, 2010, 4:43 pm

    So show me some statistics from Idaho editor. You seem to be so good at getting this information, show me the stats, don’t just put on here a bunch of departments abbreviations and think that makes you right. Again, I do not believe statisticly that there are more or just as many accidents by emergency responders as there are by civilians that drive and text, talk on their phone, reach down and change channels on radios without looking, etc etc. And also editor, the next time you want the emergency responder responding to your emergency to have all the info in front of him so he knows what he is going to or getting into, or what you need, you will be probably be happy for it.

  5. steve lewis
    Mar 11, 2010, 6:37 pm

    Wow Mr Editor, you are now saying coppers will lie about accidents huh. Man, just keep bashing editor, your true colors are showing again. Also, most of those stats are from large metro areas I am sure, so get the Idaho stats, or better yet, Boise, Nampa, Meridian etc.

  6. The Boise fire department does not allow the drivers of a fire apparatus to work on the computer, text or talk on the phone while driving. How do I know this for sure? I’m a Boise firefighter. The Captain works the computer. the Driver doesn’t have access to it. I can’t even see the screen from the driver’s seat. And personal phone use is out while on a truck or engine.

    Zippo, BFD has a policy that the fire apparatus will come to a full stop at all red lights or stop signs. There is good and bad with every policy, but this one is on the books and is expected to be followed.

    EDITOR NOTE–Matt, thanks for the info. Good policy , especially with my expensive rig! Policy on computer is probably the same for ACEMS too. Nemo will probably let us know on that. ISP has privately said they avoid reading and driving too.

  7. In response to Lawman, I would take a guess that you were probably a “command officer” for many years. I applaud that. However, by you taking from my writings on this freedom of speech blog that I have a “combative attitude” and am “trying to pick fights”, you take my comments all wrong. The majority of the time I am trying to get the point(s) across that emergency responders deserve a little more respect for the job they do, and that people that continually bash them in here would not want to do. If you have seen any of my previous responses you would see that line of speech in every one I have written. And just so you know sir, I know that the majority of people in Boise do support their police department, but it is the 1%-2% that write here that don’t, and though I will never change their minds, I will not stop expressing my beliefs as I am entitled to.

  8. I think you are missing some important issues with this bill. I am a Police Officer, but not a traffic cop. I believe the traffic laws all have their place, but are sometimes used more than needed, simply for a fund generating tool (not to be blamed on the cops, but the politicians who push the enforcement). This bill will greatly add to this problem. The bill text prohibits:

    “engaging in the review of, or preparation and transmission of typed messages via wireless devices.”

    Think about how vague this is, and what it extends to. Not only does this prohibit people from texting on a phone, it also includes ‘reviewing’ any transmission on a wireless device. Anyone use a GPS system? You can’t anymore if this bill passes. Does your phone ring and you want to look screen to see who is calling? You just violated this law, and if an Officer sees you look at your phone he/she can legally stop you. Have a TOM TOM or a GARMIN on your dash? Seems pretty easy that an Officer can now stop you for that. How about satellite radio? Seems like a wireless device to me!

    My point is this: This law is very vague, and simply over extends the reach of law enforcement.

  9. Steve Lewis: … the next time you want the emergency responder responding to your emergency to have all the info in front of him so he knows what he is going to or getting into, or what you need, you will be probably be happy for it.

    This argument is used a lot; that the police should get a dispensation because they are on their way to rescue your loved ones.

    The notion of a police officer speeding down the street, running lights, weaving in and out of traffic, siren blaring… and simultaneously staring at his computer screen? That’s some SCARY stuff!! If some poor bystander gets creamed by the guy, would his survivors also acknowledge that it was a small price to pay, for the emergency-responder “to have all the info”?

    Just because you wear a badge and have maybe completed the emergency-maneuvering course, doesn’t turn you into Mario Andretti, or Michael Schumacher, or even Dale Junior. (They could probably complete the task at hand… most of us mere mortals can’t.)

    EDITOR NOTE– Dick Chaney would call that “collateral damage.”

  10. Good luck on enforcing this new law. My defense will be I was making a phone call, not texting. Yes, people lie all the time to cops. Prove I was texting. Oh, and another thing. Get a warrant to see my phone.

  11. All I know is that you can always tell if you are driving behind someone texting or talking on a hand held cell phone! They are erratic!

  12. Acquaintances of mine who consistently use cell phones or text while driving are combattive about the texting ban law instead of using commen sense on the roads. You simply cannot concentrate on the roads, signs, traffic, turn offs, etc., while engaging in long-winded conversations or texting. I have ridden along with paramedics and they always have a driver and another paramedic on board to monitor screens and write reports and are generally followed by at least one commander. Most law enforcement officers I’ve observed do pull off the road to write reports. There should not be any exceptions to this law. Safety is paramount…just ask the parents of the young man and young woman who recently died tragically in vehicular accidents in the Treasure Valley due to texting. Will this law be easy to enforce? Probably not, but a stiff fine might make some think twice about putting gadgets we’ve done without for eons above human life.

  13. I think the ban should also include bicycle riders. I almost wrecked trying use my cell phone and riding. I sure felt like a moron. Never again while driving anything. Nothing is that important.

  14. We have laptops in all of our fire apparatus, rescue and command vehicles. The crews use them to gather gis data,gps data, weather data, incident information ect, vital info while responding to an incident. The Engine Captains or backseaters use the laptops, the driver never does unless while the vehicle is stopped. Besides the laptops the Engine Captain also have multi-channel radios, blackberries, pda’s, cell phones, satelite phones that keep them occupied.

  15. There is a simple fix to this. Pressure your local governement to hire more Police Officers. The Police will need two officers in every car so that one can drive while the other receives the rapidly evolving dispatches and updates. The public will be safer and happy, the Police will be safer and happy and the Guardian readers will be happy. Problem solved, at least until everyone wants to go back the way it was because of the higher taxes.

    The other fix would be to take away the technology advancement and go back to emergency responders receiving their information via radio and using a pen and paper while driving. Might still be safer with a passenger side cohort to jot everything down since driving with a pen in your hand is like running with scissors.

    EDITOR NOTE–We just got word that SB 1352 has an amendment inserted that gives coppers and firefighters an exemption. Expect to hear, “Sir, I can do this safely but you are as bad as a DUI. This is a texting citation.”

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