The Iowa House has voted to make it illegal to send a text message while driving. While some lawmakers argued the bill doesn’t go far enough, others said it goes too far.
“Once again we go after Iowa’s youth because we’re too old to remember what it was like when we were driving 70 miles an hour on a two-lane road with no seat belts,” said Representative Lance Horbach, a Republican from Tama who voted “no” on the bill. “And we think we’re making it safer.”
Representative Mike May, a Republican from Spirit Lake, is a retired school teacher who argued in favor of the ban on texting while driving. “Folks, I think the bottom line in all of this is that our children are dying in automobiles,” May said. “We are giving them another gun or another knife in the car to inflict bodily harm on themselves.”
The bill approved in the House would establish a $30 fine for someone caught writing or sending a text message while driving. But the penalty does not apply to reading a text message in a moving vehicle. Representative Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, called that a major flaw in the bill.
“It just doesn’t make sense to me that if we’re going to address the issue of texting why we exempt reading (a text message),” Heaton said. “It doesn’t make sense.”
In mid-January, Governor Culver said he hoped Iowa would follow 19 other states and ban texting while driving — including a prohibition on reading text messages as you’re driving down the road, something that is not in the House-passed bill.
“That’s the goal so we hope to work with the legislature to make that happen,” Culver said early Tuesday morning, a few hours before House began debating the issue.
Some Republicans pressed for other limits, like barring drivers from using a hand-held device to surf the web or play games behind the wheel, but those were rejected. The bill passed on a 64 to 31 vote. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.