What will it take for the Idaho Legislature to outlaw texting while driving?
What it shouldn't require is a horrific multi-car accident with multiple fatalities and debilitating injuries.
It shouldn't require that a texting driver wipe out innocent children in a school crosswalk or a defenseless cyclist in a bike lane doing his part to reduce his carbon footprint.
Legislators refuse to recognize cell phones for what they are: drunk driving's more dangerous twin.
Thirty states have outlawed texting while driving based on evidence that using electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle is the equivalent of several drinks and that texting is far worse than talking on a cell phone.
University of Utah researchers found that texting drivers decrease following distances, and their reaction times increase by 30 percent while drivers talking on the phone experience a 9 percent increase.
So, while Idaho drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs are pulled over and hustled off to jail, texting drivers have nothing to fear, even though the American Automobile Association says distracted driving is responsible for 25 percent of all traffic accidents.
The Legislature came close to passing a ban last year, but it failed in a last-minute parliamentary maneuver that required a two-thirds vote for it to pass. Congressman Raul Labrador, then a state representative, engineered the move that defeated the bill.
Last week, the House Transportation Committee delayed this year's wimpy attempt to regulate "distracted driving," defined as when a driver "shall use an electronic device that causes such person to be distracted or otherwise fail to exercise due care."
The punishment? A measly $75 fine.
Most legislators would dial 911 in a desperate call to police if they saw an intoxicated person waving a gun at others. The same legislators consistently vote to tolerate someone "intoxicated" with texting and pointing a speeding car at others.
Is it because using a cell phone looks sexier than falling down drunk?
Is it because people who text and drive don't slur their words, stagger unattractively or upchuck at inconvenient times?
Or is the failure of the Republican-dominated Legislature to remove this scourge from our highways the product of a benighted ideology that takes the statement "the government that governs least, governs best" so literally that it overlooks behavior that threatens the lives of others in the name of less government?
Apparently, the duty of Idaho lawmakers to protect the public welfare has vanished in a cruel and life-threatening ideological wilderness.