There’s a new twist proposed for the bill that would make it illegal to send text messages while you’re driving in Iowa.

Legislators who’ve been working to draft a bill that can win both House and Senate approval have decided lawmakers should stipulate that you may only be pulled over and charged with the crime of texting while driving if police suspect you’re breaking another law, too — like speeding.  Senator Bill Heckroth, a Democrat from Waverly, says that change weakens the bill.

“Because now I can be doing any texting. As long as I’m not swerving, I can get by with it, you know, and that concerns me,” Heckroth says. 

Heckroth supports the compromise, though. “As you know, in this process, it’s progress before perfection and I think we’ll still have a tremendous impact on safety on the roads,” Heckroth says. 

The compromie plan that could be debated by the House today would prohibit adults from both sending and reading texts while driving.  It would ban most teenagers below the age of 18 from using any hand-held device while they’re driving. Senator Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Cedar Falls, says the penalties in the bill are stiff.

“That’s why I think this will improve public safety because people will now have a disincentive — both financial and personal disincentive to pick that phone up and engage in this behavior,” Danielson says.  “We’ve made sure that when that happens, Iowans will get justice.”

 Under the bill, a person who violates the texting ban and causes an accident with serious injuries will face a $500 fine and their drivers license will be suspended for 90 days.  If the accident causes a death, the driver guilty of texting behind the wheel would face a $1000 fine and they’d lose their drivers license for five months.