State-Wide Texting Ban Would Override Dubuque's Ordinance

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By Aaron Hepker

DUBUQUE - Iowa's Governor is calling for an even tougher ban on texting while driving, telling them millions of dollars are at stake.

On Tuesday, the Iowa Senate rejected the House's cell phone ban bill. That bill only banned texting for drivers who are 16 and 17. The senate wants a bill that would apply to all drivers, regardless of age. Now the governor is weighing in, saying a tougher ban would make the state eligible for more highway funding.

Dubuque is the only city in Iowa that has its own ban. It's pretty strict, banning all hand held phone use behind the wheel. But depending on what the state decides, Dubuque's rule could vanish. Police in Dubuque are on the lookout for any driver talking or texting. No matter that driver's age.

"What is it about 18-year-olds that suddenly they are now capable of not paying attention and driving. It ought to apply to everyone who is behind the wheel," said Dirk Voetberg, Dubuque City Council Member.

Voetberg got the ball rolling to create Dubuque's cell phone ban. He says no matter what happens at the state level, he wants Dubuque's ordinance to remain as is.

"I think they ought to allow other cities in the state to have cell phone bans if we think it is appropriate."

Right now if police catch drivers in Dubuque talking or texting while driving, they get a written warning. Starting April 1st, that warning becomes a $50 fine, $250 if you cause a crash. But if the state passes it's own ban, Dubuque's will be null and void.

"I think it's never a waste of time to do the right thing and I think that is what we've done," said Voetberg.

Voetberg says it's time for state law-makers to understand how important he says it is to keep drivers, of every age, off their cell phones.

Dubuque Police say will continue to enforce the current ban until further notice.

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