Senator proposes to broaden Iowa's texting while driving ban

New language would allow state to keep up the development of new forms of social media

Iowa drivers could continue to talk and drive, but engaging in any other form of electronic communication could result in being ticketed for a moving violation and a $30 fine.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, proposed the change from “texting” to “electronic communication” to allow the state to keep up the development of new forms of social media that can be accessed from cellphones while driving.

“It’s evolving so fast you can’t even keep up with it,” Bowman said Wednesday. “Electronic communication,” he thinks, is broad enough to catch any new forms of social media.

Senate File 2289 and his amendment would strengthen current law that prohibits a person from using a hand-held electronic communication device to write, read, or send a text message while driving a motor vehicle. Bowman’s proposal would broaden the ban beyond texting to include Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, email and all forms of social media.

The bill and his amendment maintain the current exclusions such as talking on a phone, using voice-activated devices and engaging GPS devices, Bowman said.

However, because illegal use of electronic communication would be a moving violation it would count toward the six offenses a driver is allowed before being subject to designation as a habitual offender.

SF 2289 also would make use of electronic communication a “primary offense,” allowing law enforcement to pull over and ticket a driver. Now it is a secondary offense and a ticket only can be given if there’s a violation of another motor vehicle law.

There are 21 states that ban text messaging for all drivers but only four consider texting a primary enforcement, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

SF 2289 has been approved by the Transportation Committee and eligible for floor action. To meet the Legislature’s self-imposed deadline, it must be approved by the Senate and the House Transportation Committee before March 14.


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