The Iowa Department of Transportation’s Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement (MVE) is installing a device called “Arch Angel” in 126 of its vehicles to keep officers from becoming distracted by their laptop computers.

MVE Chief Dave Lorenzen, says the device takes over when the cars take off. “When the vehicle hits a speed of 15-miles-an-hour or higher, the laptop keyboard, the screen and the mouse are basically incapable of being operated,” Lorenzen says.

MVE is responsible for enforcing regulations on commercial vehicles on the state’s roadways. Lorenzen says officers are just like everyone else who might want to take a look at their computer while driving, and this device prevents that from happening. “It reduces and minimizes the amount of distractions that the driver may have that may have the potential to take their attention away from the roadway,” he explains.

The laptops are mounted between the driver and passenger seats at the front of the car and are used for writing violations and other forms used by officers in a paperless system. Lorenzen says officers have a lot of things going on in the patrol car and don’t need the distraction of the computer too. “They have some radios operating, a scanner, things like that. So, we just wanted to make sure that we were minimizing the distractions. We felt this was a good tool that would allow our staff to continue to do their core mission and their functions, but do it in a safe, effective and efficient manner,” Lorenzen says.

He hopes this will set an example for motorists that you shouldn’t be using electronic devices while driving. “One of the major effects on safe driving is driver behavior has to be modified to be conducive to the vehicle being able to operate safely among other vehicles,” Lorenzen says.

The Arch Angel is a combination of software and hardware linked between the car and the computer. “It runs approximately 190-dollars per patrol vehicle, and of course when you have the number of vehicles we have, that’s a sizable amount of money,” Lorenzen says. He says they were able to use some money forfeited to the department to purchase the devices.

While the device shuts off most of the operations of the laptop, the computer is still able to tell the officer’s location, and has a feature where the officer can use one keystroke to call for help. It also allows the officer to view a map of the location when they are responding to an emergency and shows where other law officers are located.

Lorenzen notes that drivers of commercial vehicles like semis and other trucks have restrictions on them regarding the use of computers and other devices that do not apply to private vehicles. The installation of the devices into the patrol cars will be completed by November first.