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One year later: How effective is the ban on texting and driving?

One year ago Monday, texting and driving became illegal in Idaho. Has the ban made our roads any safer?

Idaho State Police troopers say answering that question can be complicated, and that issuing citations for texting can be tricky.

In 2009, trooper Peter Sibus was lucky to walk away from a crash with nothing but a new outlook on his career. He was clearing debris from the road, when another car slammed into his cruiser. He said the driver was texting at the time.

“It’s obviously going to change the way you do your job,” Sibus said of the incident. “I definitely am an anti-texter.”

Since texting behind the wheel became illegal, three years after the crash, Sibus has not issued a single texting ticket.

“What I cite people for is failure to maintain lanes, because they’re obviously driving out of their lane when they’re texting and that’s a moving violation,” Sibus said.

Texting and driving is a non-moving violation. It has Sibus cautiously questioning whether the ban is actually effective.

“I mean, I still see people (texting and driving),” Sibus said.

After just a few minutes at an Idaho Falls intersection, our news cameras captured several culprits.

“They’ll tell us they weren’t doing that particular thing,” said trooper Neil Stevens, admitting that it’s difficult to cite a driver for texting. “They were just hitting something to, you know, call someone — or something of that nature.”

Still, Stevens tries to stay more optimistic than Sibus.

“The way I see it, is they’re stopped. We’re making them aware of it. They know we’re watching them, and hopefully that’ll change their behavior,” Stevens said.

Since July 1, 2012, ISP has issued 66 citations for texting and driving, statewide. A citation carries a $90 fine and three points.

According to Lt. Chris Weadick, the texting ban does help with investigations into deadly car crashes. Police can subpoena phone companies to gain access to cell phone records, and determine if the driver was texting at the time of the accident.

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