Sun Valley Begins Crackdown on Cellphone Use While Driving 

"We've given plenty of warnings, but we want to make one last announcement before enforcement begins."

click to enlarge EDBROWN CC
  • EdBrown CC

It's not uncommon for Treasure Valley residents to head to Sun Valley during the summer. Visit Sun Valley, the region's marketing engine, says nearly a quarter of a million visitors swarm to the Wood River Valley from May through September. But for the many who visit once per year, here's a word of caution: It's now illegal to use hand-held devices while driving.

Earlier this year, the Idaho Legislature once again rejected such a law for the state as a whole, citing "government overreach."

"The people have spoken," argued Sen. Dan Foreman (R-Moscow), who opposed the measure. "If you don't believe me, the next time you pull up to an intersection, look around."

If that same scenario plays out in the Wood River Valley, Blaine County Sheriff Steve Harkins said anyone glued to their phone faces a fine.

"We've given plenty of warnings, but we want to make one last announcement before enforcement begins," wrote Harkins in a June 12 press release.

The cities of Hailey and Ketchum each passed cellphone bans and Blaine County followed suit, passing an ordinance banning cellphone use while driving on roads outside of city limits. An infraction will cost a driver $100.

This past year was one of the deadliest on Idaho highways, with law enforcement blaming a number of crashes on distracted driving. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day in 2016, Idaho averaged one death per day on Gem State roadways.

"Over the last few years, the number of deaths on our roads during the summer months has been trending upward," Idaho Transportation Department Public Information Specialist Bill Kotowski told the Idaho State Journal in 2017.

Sixteen U.S. states, including Oregon and Washington, prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cellphones while driving, and a total of 38 states ban all cellphone use by novice drivers. While the Wood River Valley has joined that movement, the State of Idaho remains in the far-right lane.

"I think we have better things to do," said Sen. Steve Vick (R-Dalton Gardens) before nixing this year's Statehouse proposal.

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