Proposed legislation would expand Iowa's distracted driving ban

Use of a hand-held device while driving could become a primary offense

Iowa lawmakers are considering a bill proposed by the Iowa Department of Public Safety that would significantly expand the state's current distracted driving laws, according to the Des Moines Register. The proposal, Senate Study Bill 1041, would make all use of a hand-held device while driving illegal in the state and subject to a fine. Under current law, only texting and driving is illegal and law enforcement say the current statute is difficult to enforce. Safety advocates and police say a similar law in Illinois has led to a decrease in car accidents caused by distracted driving.

Ban on hand-held devices

The proposal would make using a hand-held electronic device while driving illegal in Iowa and subject to a $30 fine. Exceptions would be made for hands-free devices and devices that had voice-activated capabilities in place. According to the Quad City Times, the bill would make use of a hand-held device a primary offense, meaning officers would be able to pull drivers over for no other reason than if they see them using a cellphone while driving.

Under current law, only texting and driving is banned and it is considered just a secondary offense. As a secondary offense, officers can only stop a driver for texting and driving if the officer also witnesses the driver committing some other offense in addition to texting and driving. Police have complained that the current statute makes it overly difficult to enforce the state's distracted driving laws.

Growing danger

The proposed legislation is largely based on a similar law in Illinois. The Illinois State Police told Iowa lawmakers recently that after Illinois passed its own ban on hand-held devices while driving, distracted driving accidents and fatalities in the state declined even at a time when Interstate speed limits went up. Proponents of the bill say that distracted driving is quickly becoming more dangerous on the road than drunk driving and that legislators need to act fast to confront the problem.

Despite the growing danger, however, there was some doubt about whether the current proposal will be passed into law. Another distracted driving bill last year failed to pass in the House. This current proposal, some lawmakers note, is even tougher than the one that previously failed, raising doubts about whether the bill would prove successful.

Motor vehicle accidents

Distracted driving is an everyday threat to countless motorists and their families throughout Iowa. Texting or talking on a cellphone leads to far too many deaths and injuries every year, all of which are preventable.

Anybody injured by a distracted driver should contact a personal injury law firm immediately. A law firm that is focused on representing injured victims can provide the guidance and support such victims need when trying to understand their legal rights following an accident.