Troopers Call for Tougher Cell Phone Laws
DES MOINES, Iowa - Using a cellphone in a car without a hands-free system could soon be illegal in Iowa.
Iowa's 70 mph speed limit is 7 years old, and Department of Transportation officials said the faster speed is killing more drivers than the previous 65 mph limit.
Just north of Ankeny on Interstate 35, the speed limit changes to 70 mpg. It's the same story on all rural Iowa interstates, and most Iowans said they prefer it that way.
However, since 2005, 250 people have died on the faster-speed roads. That number is well above the 227 who died on the same roads during the seven years before 2005, when the limit was 65 mph.
"I think it was to be predicted," said Patrick Hoye, the chief of Iowa State Patrol. Hoye said the rising death toll is no surprise, as it has happened in every state that's raised the speed limit.
Officials with the Governor's Office said there is no move to lower the speed limit, but Iowa State Patrol officials said there are other things they can do to make Iowa roads safer. "There are things you can address to drive down the fatality rate, and I think the next one is distracted driving. If you can get a handle on that, you'll see a reduction in fatalities," Hoye said.
Distracted driving means using cellphones -- talking and texting. Most law enforcement officers said Iowa's current texting while driving law is weak. They also want lawmakers to create a hands-free cellphone law that would ban holding a phone while driving.
The Iowa State Patrol is also pushing for more seat belt usage and more cable barriers to separate oncoming lanes. "The number of crossover fatalities where (cable barriers) are in place are almost nonexistent now," Hoye said.
If the economy ever improves, officials with the Iowa State Patrol said there's always room for more troopers on the road -- a surefire way to slow drivers down.
One bit of good news regarding the 70 mph interstate speed limit, according to the DOT, is that most drivers are actually obeying it, running about 72 mph on average.
What's On KCRG