Iowa law enforcement hoping for ‘hands free’ bill in next legislative session

With a hands-free law, drivers could be cited for holding their phone while driving.
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 6:11 PM CDT
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DES MOINES, Iowa - Thirty-six states have “hands-free” laws for drivers. Iowa does not. And while an effort to pass a bill failed in the last legislative session, Public Safety officials are once again encouraging lawmakers to pick up the bill.

Iowa has a ban on texting while driving, but Brett Tjepkes with the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau, says it’s hard to enforce.

”With apps that are on the phone, with navigations, with everything else that is cell phone can do for us, It’s really hard to prove that somebody’s actually reading or writing a text-based message,” Tjepkes said.

With a hands-free law, drivers could be cited for holding their phone while driving.

“It would put people’s attention back on the roadway. You know, driving is demanding, you know, with the amount of traffic that’s on the road, with the amount of dangers that are out there, drivers need to be focused on driving,” Tjepkes said.

Bills aimed at requiring drivers to go hands-free have been introduced since 2019 but failed every time.

“It is something that is garnering a lot of attention nationwide, and we believe that it’s time for Iowa too to have that similar restriction,” Tjepkes said.

Colonel Nathan Fulk with Iowa State Patrol says troopers see instances of distracted driving constantly.

“We’re investigating a crash with a young 21-year-old driver that was watching a wrestling meet in northeast Iowa and was on a two-lane roadway and was distracted by a device, collided with another driver and caused a fatality crash,” Fulk said.

Fulk says hands-free legislation wouldn’t be a burden on drivers.

“I think it would provide them the ability to focus more on the roadway and to put the phone down. They could do a one-touch application where they could still utilize the phone lawfully, but it would minimize distraction,” Fulk said.

Even if your car doesn’t have the technology to do voice commands, you can still go hands-free. Most phones have an app that pauses notifications when you’re driving. You may even get a discount through your insurance for doing so.

Last year’s hands-free bill passed the Senate. Supporters believe it will pass both chambers and become law this next legislative session.