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Texting and Driving Becomes a Primary Offense in Iowa

Patrol officers say the best policy for mobile phones in traffic is "out of sight, out of mind." (Unsplash/Pixabay)
Patrol officers say the best policy for mobile phones in traffic is "out of sight, out of mind." (Unsplash/Pixabay)
June 30, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa – If the dangers involved with texting and driving aren't enough, Iowa motorists will soon have a financial incentive to put away their phones.

Beginning Saturday, texting while driving becomes a primary offense in the state - meaning patrol officers can pull you over and ticket you for that violation alone.

Iowa Highway Patrol Sergeant Scott Bright recommends that drivers put their mobile phones in the console or glove compartment, because incoming texts are just too tempting.

"They'll pick that phone up and try to respond to that text," he said. "So, the best thing to do is put it somewhere out of reach – or if you're in the car and you want to turn it off, turn it off."

And the ticket isn't cheap. Drivers will be assessed a $30 fine, but when court costs and fees are added, the total will be about $125.

According to Sgt. Bright, more than 400 people died in traffic accidents in Iowa last year, and 60 percent of those fatalities involved vehicles that left the roadway. He's hopeful that number will come down next year as a result of the new law.

He recalled a particular accident one year ago in Northern Iowa involving a teenage girl who'd sent a text a half-second prior to crashing.

"She ran into the back of a school bus that was actually stopped picking up students to go to the same school she was going to, running 35, 40 miles per hour and was killed instantly," he said.

Bright added that it is surprisingly easy to spot people texting and driving. Patrol cars are outfitted with video cameras that record drivers weaving or crossing center lines. Inattentive driving has always been illegal in Iowa, but patrol officers couldn't previously pull over motorists solely for texting and driving.

Kevin Patrick Allen, Public News Service - IA