Iowa sends message with stiffer penalties: Don’t text and drive

In 2016, drivers distracted by their phones or other devices caused 1,230 crashes on Iowa roads, nearly double the number from a decade ago, state statistics show. This year, the state’s lawmakers passed two bills to crack down on these motorists.

Under SF 444, an individual’s use of a “hand-held electronic communication device to write, send or view an electronic message” while driving is considered “reckless.” If this activity results in the unintentional death of another person, the driver would be charged with a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. A second bill signed into law, SF 234, makes texting while driving a primary offense, The Des Moines Register reports. This will allow police officers to pull over a motorist whom they suspect of texting while driving.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Administration, Iowa had been one of four Midwestern states (Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota are the others) where texting while driving was a secondary offense. Illinois is the only state in the Midwest that bans all drivers from using hand-held cell phones; other states in the region only restrict young or “novice” drivers.
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Stateline Midwest: May 20171.81 MB