Using a cell phone the wrong way at the wrong time could get you a traffic ticket if a bill that cleared the Iowa Senate Wednesday night becomes law.
Drivers still could use a hand-held device to make a phone call or look at a digital map to get GPS driving directions, but police could pull a driver over for texting, Snapchatting or having a Facebook live session behind the wheel.
Senator Liz Mathis, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, would like to go farther, but she and most of the other senators voted for the bill.
“Maybe someone will be deterred from texting and driving, but we still, I think, in the future will have to address hands-free driving,” Mathis said. “It’s possible to do. We’re going to have to do it to save lives.”
Senator Michael Breitbach, a Republican from Strawberry Point who’s a former insurance agent, said he’d like to have a “stronger” state law, too, but the reality is a “hands free” proposal couldn’t pass the legislature.
“This is the bill that I can get done today. Whether we can get something more done next week or the week after, I’d be more than happy to explore,” Breitbach said.
“…Some people think that you can’t pass a hands-free bill. Well, guess what? We’ve got it already in Iowa and it happens to be anybody who is driving a commercial vehicle. They are not allowed to use anything but hands free. We can get there. I expect at some point we will get there and I am sure we haven’t see the last of this issue yet.”
A couple of other senators expressed support for an “eyes on the road, hands on the wheel” approach that would keep drivers from using a smart phone. Senator Tod Bowman , a Democrat from Maquoketa, said the bill is at least a step in the right direction.
“While it’s not perfect and it may create some enforcement issues, studies have shown that having your eyes off the road is certainly bad,” Bowman said. “Having your mind off the road is bad and having a hand off the wheel is bad.”
The bill that would let police pull adult drivers over for fiddling with their smart phone while driving cleared the Senate on a 43-6 vote. The state’s law for teenage drivers has been “hands free” for several years.
Governor Branstad and a coalition called “Stay Alive: Don’t Phone and Drive” are pressing legislators to pass a “hands-free” law for all Iowa motorists.