A new Iowa law regarding texting while driving is producing positive results in terms of enforcement.
According to an Associated Press story in the Sept. 2 Journal, the Iowa State Patrol issued 230 tickets for texting while driving in the first two months of the new law, far more than ISP issued for all of the previous year. (Texting while driving at high speeds on state and interstate highways takes this practice to another level of dangerous.)
The law made texting while driving a primary offense, rather than a secondary offense, meaning law enforcement officers can issue a ticket for texting while driving without another traffic violation taking place.
We supported the change as a means by which to make our state's roads safer in the face of a national distracted driving epidemic. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, some 660,000 drivers use cell phones or manipulate electronic devices while driving at any given daylight moment. The National Safety Council reports use of cellphones by drivers causes 26 percent of the nation's car accidents, resulting in some 1.6 million crashes each year.
We understand texting while driving remains a difficult violation for law enforcement personnel to detect, but we commend ISP for making a strong effort. We urge local police and sheriff's departments throughout the state, including Sioux City and Woodbury County, to join ISP in using the power provided by the new law to crack down on this problem.
Our hope, of course, is texting while driving will decline across Iowa as the number of tickets for violations grows and the awareness of increased potential for tickets spreads.
Again today, we urge the Legislature next year to take an additional step in the name of public safety and debate a ban on all uses of a hand-held cellphone while driving.