Eastbound Chinden has been backed up bumper-to-bumper for the last 40 minutes. When you left your house in Meridian to pick up your kid in Boise you were only running a few minutes behind. Thanks to midday construction projects, however, now it's crunch time.
Unlike your friends with newer cars, you don't have the option to blast off a Bluetooth/hands-free text. You know texting and driving is illegal in Idaho, but your car isn't actually moving and this text can't wait. Stopped at a red light where you've been for the last seven minutes, you whip out your cell to text a parent-friend to wait with your kid until you get there.
If Boise Police spot you texting behind the wheel, it's well within their purview to you issue you a ticket. Then again, from our understanding of Chapter 14 Enforcement & General Provisions, putting your car in park might be your get-out-of-jail-free-card. See for yourself:
'Operate' means to drive or assume physical control of a motor vehicle upon a public way, street, road, or highway, including while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays. 'Operate' does not include a motor vehicle that is lawfully parked or that has pulled to the side of or off the road at a location where it is legal to do so and where the vehicle remains stationary.
- Idaho 49-1401A. DISTRACTED DRIVING
Our interpretation: as long as one's car is in 'park' before they start thumbing a text, Idaho drivers won't be ticketed for texting while driving because their car isn't in operation.
We then referenced Chapter 6 Rules of the Road to explore Idaho's definition of obstructing traffic and it's stance on when and where it's legal to park a vehicle. As 49-660 is currently written, stopping, standing, and parking is prohibited in a number of scenarios, including within an intersection, but makes no mention of putting your car in 'park' at an intersection/red light. Until we find evidence to the contrary, we're fairly certain Idaho drivers can text at a red light while in 'park.'
One final thought: if the light were to change while a driver was still in 'park,' a police officer could cite them for distracted driving, impeding traffic, or both.