Many new state laws take effect July 1, including the new crackdown on “texting while driving.” Legislators, though, acknowledge it’ll be difficult for law enforcement to write tickets.
The new law still lets people use an electronic device to talk or to navigate with some sort of GPS app. Representative Gary Worthan of Storm Lake said during House debate this spring that the law specifically prohibits police from seizing the phone without a warrant.
“If the person is stopped, they can say: ‘Well, I was just dialing a phone number,'” Worthan said. “The officer, to prove otherwise, would have to…get a search warrant from a magistrate before they could seize that phone or go to the phone company and get records.”
According to Senator Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City, the new law is just an “incremental” step.
“I think it’s hard to explain what we’re doing here to the average Iowan,” Bolkcom said during senate debate.
Former Governor Branstad and a coalition of safety advocates had urged legislators to pass a “hands-free” law instead. The ticket for motorists who admit to texting, Snapchatting or even playing a game while driving is $30. Court fees will be tacked onto that.
Lawmakers like Worthan cited data indicating “lane departures” are causing more accidents and officials suspect the trend is due to the use of smart phones.