Iowa Distracted Driving Laws
- Ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for novice drivers (Primary Law).
- Ban on texting for all drivers (Secondary Law).
Iowa’s Texting While Driving Stand
Current Legislation Regarding Distracted Driving
Iowa legislators stated that there are not currently any plans to ban cell phones while driving. Although, currently, texting while driving is illegal in Iowa. As of now, the 2012 legislative session does not include the issue and Senator Jeff Danielson said the law “is a bit of a long shot.” The lawmaker is receptive to reviewing and taking on the issue. Governor Terry Branstad has not yet shown support for a ban on using cell phones while driving. Branstad became governor following the prohibition of text messaging while driving.
In the summer of 2010, text messaging while driving ban went into effect. It took an entire year for the ticketing and fining portion of the law to commence. There is a penalty of $30 for reading and sending text messages while driving a motor vehicle. Fines can go up to $1,000 if an accident is the result of texting, with the amount of the fine dependant on the severity of the situation.
Iowa’s $30 penalty fee for driving and texting is one of the least expensive fines in the United States. However, those charged also have to pay a thirty-five percent surcharge and are also expected to cover any court expenses. With all of these additional charges, the total is over $100. Even though texting while driving is against the law, violators do not lose any license points.
The current law states different fees for adult and teenage drivers. For adults, the offense is secondary enforcement and the fine is $30.00. Teenage drivers who are guilty of distracted driving pay a fine of $50.00 and the offense is primary enforcement.
Prior Legislation Regarding Distracted Driving
Representative Sharon Steckman a Democrat from Mason City introduced a handheld cell phone bill in 2011. A transportation subcommittee will take on the bill named HF 530, however, there is only a small chance for advancement. HF 530 would make using handheld devices while operating a vehicle illegal. This does not make hands-free devices illegal.
In 2011 the Iowa legislature did not work on the issue of distracted driving. Many think that the current texting ban is not at all sufficient and that more work needs to be done concerning this issue. A low fine is stated to be ineffective and does not do enough to prevent text messaging while driving.
The Iowa Department of Transportation believes in harsher consequences for simultaneously driving and text messaging. The group thinks that teen drivers who break the law should receive a ban on having passengers in the vehicle. This ban would only be temporary and the Department of Transportation also thinks that a 30-day license suspension could possibly be appropriate.
Iowa Distracted Driving Legislation in 2010
The law HF 2456 bans all drivers from text messaging in Iowa. Adult drivers can only be ticketed if they first commit another offense while driving; in other words, texting while driving in the state of Iowa is a secondary offense. Adults cannot receive a citation solely for driving and texting. A $30 fine is a charge to drivers breaking the distracted driving law. The fines can increase to $1,000 if an accident occurred while texting. The secondary enforcement of the law does not apply to teenagers who drive and text. Teens that only have a learner’s permit or restricted license are not allowed to use any handheld devices while driving and can be pulled over for committing that offense alone.
The House approved HF 2456 on February 23. The vote was 65-31. The Senate then approved the bill on February 24. The vote was 44-6. The bill was then amended by the House to change the wording and call for the ban on handheld devices to cover only teenage drivers.
Senate Study Bill 3070 was introduced and would ban drivers from text messaging while driving. Fines and jail time would be a possibility for those that break the law.
SF 2321 was removed on February 24, 2010, in favor of HF 2456. This bill would have banned all drivers from text messaging while driving.
Iowa Distracted Driving Law Progress in 2010
Iowa Governor Chet Culver signed the ban on texting while driving law in April 2010. The law prohibits all drivers from sending and receiving text messages while driving. It also prohibits teens that have a restricted license from driving and using all devices that are handheld. The law went into effect on July 1, 2010. There was a one-year period where only warnings were issued to offenders. After the year, fines and penalties were issued.
HF 2456 was passed as the result of an agreement between the state Senate and the House. Both groups agreed that the enforcement of adult texting while driving would be a secondary offense. This means that the driver has to commit another driving violation before a cop can make a stop and issue a ticket. Teen drivers that break the law can be stopped and ticketed for text messaging and driving only; they do not have to first commit any other traffic violations.
On March 23, 2010, the bill that was created between the House and the Senate was completed and agreed upon. The governor signed the bill one week later.
The Iowa legislature did not have enough votes to pass a full texting ban, so the ban primarily focuses on teen drivers. If the focus of the bill did not focus on teens, then the bill would not have passed. Both parties agreed upon the changes to the bill. HF 2456 was approved by the Iowa Senate in 2010. The bill included an amendment that stated reading a text message while driving was also illegal. The original bill that was introduced by Representative David Tjepkes, a Republican from Gowrie, and did not include reading text messages while driving as an illegal activity. Those opposed to the bill stated that the wording of the bill would result in Iowa losing highway funding from the federal government.
During the 2010 legislative season, Iowa Governor Chet Culver stated that he would sign a bill that would ban texting while driving; however, he believes that the primary concern is the economy. At this time, the session had been shortened to only 80 days and a law banning texting while driving could have had to wait another year.
On February 15, 2010, the Dubuque’s City Council voted to ban vehicle operators from using handheld cell phones and texting while driving. The ban went into effect days after the vote. The fines for using a phone while driving in Dubuque are $50 to $250 and depends on if an accident occurred. At the time, Dubuque was the first locality in Iowa to create a law that prohibits using a cell phone while driving.
The Iowa Poll and Des Moines Register reported that in a poll conducted in February of 2010, 72 percent of adults stated that a text-messaging bill should be considered by the Iowa legislature. In April a distracted driving bill was introduced and had an improved chance of passing. HF 2021, would ban text messaging while driving for all drivers.
In a poll conducted by the University of Iowa and the University of North Carolina in 2010, 97 percent of parents were in favor of a ban against text messaging while driving. The poll also showed that 90 percent of the parents polled were in favor of a ban on using cell phones while driving.
Iowa Distracted Driving Legislation in 2009
In 2009 Representative Ako Abdul-Samad, a Democrat from Des Moines introduced HF9, a bill that would enforce a $30 fine if a driver was guilty of breaking the no cell phone law. The bill stated that drivers would be prohibited from using cell phones while driving unless a hands-free phone or headset was used.
HF 155 was introduced and aimed to ban the use of handheld cell phones and text messaging. This law would have applied to both teenage and adult drivers. HF 17 would have prohibited drivers under the age of 18 from using wireless devices while driving. Proposed bill HF 353 was aimed at drivers who held a professional license. This bill would have outlawed cell phone usage while driving. SF 190 would have required that only hands-free devices could be used while in Iowa; none of these bills ended up passing through the legislature.
The state of Iowa has attempted to regulate cell phone usage while driving since the late 1990s. In 2008, the Iowa legislature considered bill HB2059 that was created by Representative Mckinley Bailey, a Democrat from Webster City. The proposed bill stated that an individual that was involved in an automobile accident would be assumed to be the responsible party. This law was aimed at teenage drivers; however, the representative said that he would consider expanding the bill. The state of Iowa currently has no handheld cell phone bans in place. Drivers with their learner’s permit or intermediate licenses are banned from using cell phones in an automobile. There’s also a secondary enforcement ban on texting while operating an automobile for all drivers in the state of Iowa.