Texting while driving would be treated like driving drunk in a case of vehicular homicide under a bill that’s advanced in the Iowa House.
“What this bill makes very clear to the courts is that drunk driving and distracted driving are on the same plane,” says Representative Zach Nunn of Bondurant.
Nunn cites a Fort Dodge case as inspiration for the bill. A 21-year old man was sentenced to probation and no prison time after his texting caused a crash that killed 56-year-old David
Castenson and 85-year-old Velma Castenson.
“David and his 85-year-old mother were going into Fort Dodge when they were struck by a man who, while on his phone, blew through the rumble strips, blew through the stop sign, showed no signs of braking and no signs of hesitation before colliding with that vehicle,” Nunn says.
By law, vehicular homicide applies if it’s clear the driver showed reckless disregard for safety. The sentencing judge in that Fort Dodge case said there was no evidence of malice and he chose probation for the accused man instead of a 20-year prison sentence. Nunn says this bill spells out that using a hand-held electronic device qualifies as reckless disregard in such cases and the accused texting driver would be charged with a Class C felony.
This bill is part of a package of recommendations from the Iowa Impaired Driving Coalition.
(Reporting by Iowa Public Radio’s Joyce Russell)