Consequences of texting while driving more serious

Effective July 1, texting while driving will become a primary offense in Iowa. To put it simply, if a police officer sees you using your phone and doing anything other than talking, he or she can pull you over and issue you a warning or a ticket.

“You can still talk on the phone, and you can still dial a number to call someone, but that’s about it,” said Lyon County Sheriff Stewart Vander Stoep.

The only exceptions include using a phone for GPS purposes and using it to view emergency messages, such as weather alerts. However, playing games, being on Facebook or the internet, and even simply viewing text messages will all become primary offenses starting July 1.

Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad passed the legislation earlier this year, with lawmakers hoping the change will reduce the amount of roadway fatalities in the state. Phone usage had previously been a secondary offense, meaning that an officer needed another reason to pull a driver over.

Vander Stoep said he doesn’t anticipate a lot of issues with the new law, however. “This law has been talked about a lot since January and so I think the majority of people know about it already,” he said. “Also, from what I understand from the politicians, about 80 percent of the people in Iowa agree with this new law.”

According to the sheriff, there were 404 vehicle-related deaths in Iowa in 2016, and approximately 63 percent of those fatalities were due to distracted driving. “That is the worst death rate in over a decade on Iowa roads. For so many years, every year we were getting better and better with fewer deaths every year from accidents, but now, in just the last two years, it’s gone up. And 404 deaths in one year is unacceptable. So it was time to do something different, and put some more teeth into the law.”

The law is even stricter for those under 18. “If you have a driving permit or the intermediate license, you cannot use your phone at all, not even to talk on it. That’s all illegal now,” explained Vander Stoep.

He thinks this could be somewhat of a challenge for parents. “All of us parents have done it at one time or another, texting ‘Where areyou?’ and we kind of promote the child to respond while they’re driving. I’ve been guilty of it before. But that’s something that parents will have to get away from.”

The sheriff said the best way to avoid getting pulled over is to pull over on your own. “I’ve noticed more people pulling over to the side of the road to use their phone, and that’s good to see, just as long as they get far enough off the road.”

Vander Stoep felt that something had to be done, especially since there have been more fatalities on Iowa roadways despite the fact vehicles have become safer and safer. “If you’re texting or doing anything like that, you’re not focusing. I don’t think people realize how fast they’re going and how quickly their car can drift to one side or the other just by them looking down for a few seconds. There have been a few accidents in the last couple of years in Lyon County where it was because someone was texting or doing something with their phone, and they drifted into the other lane and there were serious consequences because of it.”

He believes the previous version of the law — in which texting was a secondary offense — was problematic. “If an officer knew the person was texting, that alone wasn’t a good enough reason to stop them. And you don’t even have to be in law enforcement to see all the texting and driving going on out on the road. Now texting and driving will be a primary offense, so there doesn’t have to be any other crime going on for an officer to stop that car.”

Previously, it was rare for a driver to be stopped for texting unless the officer had a second reason to stop the driver. “Before, even just giving them a warning for texting was kind of considered a bad stop, so that’s why most officers didn’t do anything before because they really couldn’t. But now you can stop them and give them a warning at least,” said Vander Stoep.

A person ticketed under the new law will face a fine of $30, but the fine could be as high as $1,000 if the person causes a serious accident due to his/her distracted driving.

Comments are closed.

  • Special NCC election set for April 3

    March 29th, 2018

    A special Northwest Iowa Community College election will be conducted April 3, with polls opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 8 p.m.

    Local manufacturer releases country music video

    March 27th, 2018

    Maintainer Custom Bodies, with production facilities in Rock Rapids and Sheldon, is expanding its presence at the upcoming Fire Department Instructors Conference

    A checkmate for the Central Lyon chess club

    March 27th, 2018

    “Check” and “checkmate.” Those are words students will hear in the Central Lyon school library around 3 p.m. each Tuesday afternoon as various students challenge each other during Chess Club.

  • Kade Griesse elected to FFA district officer position

    March 15th, 2018

    Jason Hommes | Staff Writer A Central Lyon FFA student was elected to a district office position at the FFA […]

    Good life

    March 15th, 2018

    Roscoe Pettengill did not count bowling as a hobby or favorite activity during the first 97 years of his life. […]

    Fairytale creatures, ogres and a donkey

    October 19th, 2017

    A Tony Award-winning fairy tale adventure will be presented on the Tom Gaspar Stage in Forster Auditorium at Central Lyon High School later this month

  • Facebook

  • [Advertisement.]
  • Sports Tweets

    • Congrats to the NCP girls soph soccer team on today's 2-1 win over Taft. The NCP sophs up their record to 5-0 on th…
    • Congrats to the Northside Badminton team on their win at Mather today. The Mustangs are now 2-0 on the season. Go Mustangs!
    • Kudos to the Northside girls’ lacrosse team on their 10-8 win over Highland Park today. Lilly Root led NCP with four goals. Go Mustangs!
  • Latest News

    A checkmate for the Central Lyon chess club

    “Check” and “checkmate.” Those are words students will hear in the Central Lyon school library around 3 p.m. each Tuesday […]

    Honor and Recognition

    Jason Hommes | Staff Writer eterans’ Day is a day set aside to honor America’s veterans, but unlike other […]

    Mustangs take home first and second in the Siouxland Conference

    Mustangs take home first and second in the Sio uxland Conference OTTER VALLEY-It came as no surprise to see Class 2A top-ranked George-Little Rock/Central Lyon cross-country boys as winners of the