Officials in the Iowa Department of Transportation are asking legislators to tweak the new state law that bans texting while driving.

Mark Lowe, director of the Iowa D.O.T’s Motor Vehicle Division, says the penalities for teenage drivers caught texting need to be clarified.  “So that the teens that get cited for this don’t get caught in expensive mandatory insurance requirements which are called SR22 insurance requirements,” Lowe says.

Police in Iowa haven’t begun handing out tickets yet to adult or teenaged drivers caught texting, but starting July 1, D.O.T. officials say beginning teenaged drivers could face stronger penalties than intended. Under the law, teenagers are prohibited from both texting and talking on a cell phone while they’re driving.  The D.O.T. has proposed new legislation that clarifies how the violation is counted on the teen’s driving record. Senator Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Cedar Falls, says that makes more sense than burdening teens and their parents with the expense of pricier car insurance.

“What we’re trying to do is correct the behavior with progressive discipline and rather than a sledge hammer, a slap on the hand is probably appropriate punishment,” Danielson says. 

Under the D.O.T,”s proposal, a first offense on a teenager’s intermediate license would most likely result in a temporary ban on passengers or more limits on driving at night. A second offense could mean a 30 day drivers license suspension.