Iowa lawmakers consider tougher stance on texting while driving

An average of 400 people are killed in traffic collisions on Iowa roads each year, and many more are injured. One of the fastest growing causes of preventable vehicle accidents, both in Iowa and around the nation, is distracted driving. This year, Iowa lawmakers are poised to crack down on the issue by strengthening the state's laws on cellphone use and texting while driving.

Iowa's existing distracted driving law

Like most states in the nation, Iowa currently bans texting for all drivers. Along with texting, the Iowa distracted driving law also prohibits drivers from using mobile devices to send or receive other written communication while behind the wheel, such as emails, instant messages or posts to social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter.

The ban applies at all times unless the vehicle is at a complete stop off the traveled portion of the roadway; in other words, drivers in Iowa are barred from texting even while sitting in traffic or waiting at a red light. In this regard, Iowa's distracted driving law is stronger than similar laws in many other states, which often bar texting only while a vehicle is in motion.

Drivers who are cited for texting while driving in Iowa typically must pay a fine of $30. However, texting drivers who cause accidents resulting in property damage, injuries or death can face much higher fines and suspension of their driving privileges, as well as possible civil liability to those they have harmed.

Proposed enhancements to the Iowa texting ban

In some regards, Iowa's ban on texting while driving is relatively strong even in its current form when compared to many other states' laws on the issue. However, Iowa's texting ban is only a secondary law, which means that police can only issue citations for violating the texting ban if a driver has already been stopped for some other reason, such as running a stop sign, speeding or failing to signal a turn. This means that Iowa police are relatively limited in their ability to enforce the texting ban.

To address this issue, state lawmakers are considering a proposal to update Iowa's distracted driving statute to make it a primary law. This would allow police to stop drivers specifically for texting while driving, which could potentially increase compliance with the law. The proposed legislation would also raise the fines imposed on drivers who violate the law, and would make texting while driving a moving violation rather than a simple misdemeanor.

Compensation for victims of distracted drivers

When a distracted driver in Iowa causes a crash that injures or kills another person, he or she can be held liable to the crash victims or their surviving family members in civil court. This is true even if the at-fault driver has not been arrested or charged with a crime. If you or a family member has been hurt by a distracted driver, you may be able to recover financial compensation for your losses stemming from the crash, including reimbursement for your medical expenses and lost wages. Talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn more.