In November 2010, the Meridian City Council passed an ordinance effectively banning texting behind the wheel within city limits. City leaders told residents and the press that the law would make Meridian’s street safer.
“While we may not be the first in Idaho to take this step, we are leading this issue in the Treasure Valley as a way to keep our roads safe for all who travel,” wrote Mayor Tammy DeWeerd in a Nov. 9, 2010, blog post on the city site.
More than a year later, there doesn’t seem to be a way to tell if the law has helped in the way of safety.
Elizabeth Ashworth, crime analyst for the city, told IdahoReporter.com Tuesday that Meridian police officers handed out 44 citations for texting while driving between Nov. 1, 2010 – when the ban went into effect – and Oct. 31, 2011.
Because the city doesn’t track the citations after they are issued, Ashworth is unaware how many of the 44 resulted in convictions.
While some onlookers might judge the effectiveness of a texting ban by the number of tickets written, others look at crash data for proof of the law’s successfulness. But anyone wanting that data would have trouble getting it because it just doesn’t exist – yet.
“The state just recently began to track the texting citations in connection with traffic collisions,” wrote Ashworth in an email to IdahoReporter.com. “I’m hoping that by next year, we will have the ability to query this information.”
House Transportation Chairman Joe Palmer, a Republican fromMeridian, says he doesn’t feel safer on his city’s streets because of the law, but is interested in how effective it’s been. “Until we see all the data, we don’t know what impact the ordinance has had,” Palmer said Tuesday.
But one texting ban backer, Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, says that simply having the law on the books is a somewhat effective deterrent. “I think just being able to get the word out is helpful,” King said. “I still think the law has some effect, regardless of convictions.”
Still, she says, it would be nice to have the collision data. “It would be interesting,” she concluded.
Meridianis one of a few cities inIdahoto ban texting. Twin Falls outlawed the practice in October 2010 and handed out five citations in the law’s first year.