April has been distracted driving awareness month and a state trooper says it continues to be a problem across the country and in Iowa.

Sergeant Nathan Ludwig with the Iowa State Patrol says they see motorists texting driving every day on Iowa’s roadways despite a change in law that makes it illegal.

“It just seems like everybody is doing it because people just can’t seem to get that phone out of their hand,” Ludwig says. The law changed last July 1st so law enforcement officers don’t have to pull over violators for something else to charge them with texting and driving.

“Just since last July 1st, just the Iowa State Patrol we’ve written 915 citations so far and those are just the ones we’ve actually seen and gotten stopped,” Ludwig says. Ludwig says texting while driving can be a tough law to enforce.

“It is hard to get up right beside someone and actually see their fingers texting on the phone,” Ludwig says. “for us, it’s unless they actually put their phone up to their ear and they’re dialing a number or talking, then it’s pretty obvious that they’re texting or doing something else on their phone.” Sergeant Ludwig believes auto manufacturers contribute to the distracted driving problem with the other things in cars.

“People don’t look down the road when they’re driving. They’re relying on sensor on their vehicle, they rely on their GPS, and they don’t look at road signs. We’re distracted from kids in the car, movies in the car, and I see people putting on makeup or eating breakfast or doing something in their car all the time,” Ludwig says.

He says the Patrol’s biggest advice to people is to get stuff done ahead of time and then get in your car and just drive. A common misconception is that it’s legal to text when stopped at a stop sign or stoplight. Ludwig says you can only legally text while behind the wheel when your car is off the traveled portion of the roadway and at a complete stop.

(By Mark Freie, KLMJ, Hampton)