So far, 32 motorists have received warning tickets for talking on a cell phone while driving in Dubuque. The city passed an ordinance that took effect Friday, outlawing the use of a cell phone held up to the ear or texting while driving. Dubuque Police Lieutenant Scott Baxter says officers will issue warning tickets for the first 30 days of the ban.

“After March 19, the officers still have discretion in terms of issuing a written citation, a written warning or a verbal warning,” Baxter said. “It’ll be up to each independent officer to make that decision.” Dubuque is the first municipality in Iowa to enanct a distracted driving ordinance. The measure still allows drivers to use hands-free devices. After March 19, motorists who violate the ordinance could face a hefty fine.

Violating the ban costs $50 and the fine jumps to $250 if the driver is involved in a crash. Baxter says Dubuque residents have a wide range of opinions about the new ordinance. “Some are totally in support, some are totally against it and some are somewhere in between – they want to ban just the texting and not the cell phone talking,” Baxter said. “Obvioulsy, everyone is entitled to their own opinion but our main goal is to keep the roads safe.”

The Iowa House today is expected to debate a bill that would ban texting while driving. Baxter says a statewide law would take precedent over the city’s ordinance.