Proposed Iowa law will ban use of handheld devices while driving

Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 6:51 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -A new proposal in the upcoming Iowa legislative session could ban the use of handheld devices while driving. Iowa law enforcement will push lawmakers to ban ALL use of a cell phone while driving. Right now, just texting is banned.

Trooper Bob Conrad with Iowa State Patrol says the current law is difficult to enforce. He says drivers routinely lie and say they were making a phone call or looking at their map... both of which are legal.

Conrad wants to see a ban of all handheld devices, so using Bluetooth or headsets would still be allowed. But some studies question if that’s effective.

Ed Gross is heading back south to Florida. He calls out distracted drivers when he sees them. “I blow the horn at them,” said Gross. “Try to wake them up to pay attention.”

He sees other distractions too. “Should you disallow people from drinking their coffee?” he asked.

That’s the argument the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety uses when it questions if cell phone bans reduce crashes. it’s study found while bans reduce cell phone use while driving - it hasn’t shown to reduce distracted driving crashes.

But the data is different in Iowa. TV-9 checked Iowa Department of Transportation statistics and found distracted driving crashes are down since Iowa’s current texting ban took effect in 2017, from more than 12,000 crashes to less than 1,000 last year. Deaths fell from 10 to 4. Trooper Conrad says those are only the incidents we know about.

“When you’re in a crash and we ask people were you on the phone, I would say most of the time the answer is no,” said Conrad. “Because we know that’s the correct answer so we don’t get a ticket.”

The insurance institute for highway safety says vehicle safety features like collision avoidance and lane departure is more effective at eliminating distracted driving.

Trooper Conrad notes it will still take years for that technology to get into most cars on the road. A similar cell phone ban failed to pass in either chamber of the legislature

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