The director of vehicle safety research at the University of Iowa suggests it should be illegal for teenagers to text or talk on their cell phones in the first six months that they have a driver’s license. Dan McGehee says while cell phones are a distraction for anyone behind the wheel, research shows cell phones are a much greater distraction for rookie drivers.

"When you’re early on in licensure you’re still gaining the vital vehicle control and sort of traffic rules and so forth, then when you add in a cell phone, a text message — typing or receiving — it adds another burden to the drive," McGehee says. McGehee also suggests that during the first six months of driving, teenagers should not be allowed to have a passenger in the car, nor should teens be allowed to drive after 10 o’clock at night.

"Teenagers live to drive and I think it’s our responsibility to make sure they live to drive another day," McGehee says. According to McGehee, there’s been a 38 percent decline in teen driving fatalities in North Carolina after that state imposed new restrictions on teen drivers. McGehee was at the statehouse Tuesday and showed a small group of lawmakers a video of a rural Tiffin teenager who was composing a text message as she drove more than 40 miles an hour — without watching the road — and who nearly struck a telephone poll.

"Many people make the comparison that, well, eating a cheeseburger is very distracting, but you don’t eat a cheeseburger for 45 minutes on the way to school every day," McGehee says. McGehee showed lawmakers videos of texting teens involved in several wrecks and near-misses. The videos came from "Drive Cams" the university has placed in vehicles used by 24 Clear Creek Amana students.