Iowa lawmakers advanced Senate File 76 out of subcommittee last week. The bill would expand the texting while driving ban to also prohibit any use of an electronic communication device while driving. 

This relates to any device capable of being used to compose, send, receive, or read an electronic message. Devices physically or electronically integrated into a vehicle are not included. 

There are a few exceptions within the bill, such as using the device in hands-free mode, members of a public safety agency performing official duties, health care professionals in the course of an emergency situation or just pressing a single button to initiate or terminate a voice communication.

“I see it every day,” said Republican Sen. Tim Kapucian. “Our efforts previously have failed.”

Iowa passed a ban on texting while driving a couple years ago. But it doesn’t seem the state is satisfied with the results of that legislation.

Nobody spoke in opposition to the bill. 

Susan Cameron Daemen of the Iowa State Sheriffs’ & Deputies’ Association said the group has worked on this legislation for several years. 

“We believe this will be more enforceable if we go to hands free,” she said.”

Kapucian said while he believes technology will take care of this problem, it will simply take too long.

“I don’t know how long it takes to replace a fleet in our state, like 20 years or more,” he said. “It’s too risky out there right now.”

Sen. Zach Whiting shared words from the bills author, Sen. Mark Lofgren. 

“He’s been a runner and like many runners he has experienced distracted drivers almost hitting him,” Whiting said. “While I have a litany of stats, I don’t think I’ll read the two-and-a-half pages of them.”

Whiting did cite numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that stated during daylight hours, approximately 481,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving, with teens being the largest age group reported as distracted drivers at the time of fatal crashes.

The Iowa Legislature intended to send a message with its ban on texting, but Whiting said that hasn’t worked.

“Maybe that signal was not received or heard strongly enough,” he said. “One thing we consider is to make sure that liberty to use your cell is one thing, but your liberty does have limits on injuring and potentially killing other people on the road.”

Sen. Jeff Danielson was not at the meeting, but had signed in favor prior to the meeting. Whiting and Kapucian joined in support as well. 

Jacob Hall

Author: Jacob Hall