A panel of Iowa legislators working to find a compromise on a bill that would ban texting while driving is veering toward drafting a wide-reaching ban that would forbid most teen drivers from talking on a cell phone, too.
A so-called “conference committee”of House and Senate members has tentatively agreed to ban adult drivers from sending or reading texts behind the wheel, while making it illegal for most drivers under the age of 18 to use a cell phone or other hand-held device.
Senator Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Waterloo, says the final bill will likely include exemptions for emergency responders and truck drivers who often receive written instructions from devices mounted on their dashboard.
“I believe that we can come to a compromise that saves lives and protects Iowans on our highways and byways,” Danielson says.
Senator Bill Heckroth, a Democrat from Waverly, urged the committee not to make too many exceptions. “If it’s going to be a little inconvenient that I have to pull off to the side of the road to read the text, so be it,” Heckroth said during Wednesday’s committee meeting. “I don’t care whether it’s an emergency room doctor or what. I mean, I can pull of to the side of the road to read my text.”
But Representative Chris Hagenow, a Republican from Windsor Heights, says a compromise version must allow police, fire fighters and truck drivers to read messages while they’re driving because those messages help them do their job. “At a minimum, we’ll need those particular exemptions in order to be able to get the votes needed for passage here in the House,” Hagenow says.
Once the conference committee approves the bill, it must be endorsed by both the Senate and the House. The conference committee members who’re working on this issue plan to meet Thursday to review a final draft of their proposed compromise.