Old Habits Die Hard
Our family was on the way home from a softball game recently when it happened. As I crested the hill an approaching truck was already a foot into our lane. Fortunately, I had time to react and avoid a sideswipe. As the driver passed by I could see his eyes were somewhere in his lap. I’m not sure that he ever saw us.
Old habits die hard, especially when it comes to distracted driving. But a change in Iowa’s distracted driving law set to go into effect July 1 will give law enforcement officers the ability to stop distracted drivers for just that offense. Here are the key points:
Texting, web browsing, social media use and gaming are now primary enforcement offenses. The old law required officers to have another reason to conduct a traffic stop for an observed texting violation. The updated law will improve safety on our roads by allowing enforcement officers to conduct traffic stops solely upon a distracted driving violation. (321.276)
The new law expands the scope of distractions to include email, social media, gaming and web browsing. Language in the law closes gaps between texting and device use for other purposes. This now includes viewing a web page, social media app or internet page. Existing exemptions for navigation and receiving safety information were retained in the new law. (321.276)
These distractions are now considered “reckless” under the motor vehicle homicide code section (707.6A). Distracted drivers who cause a crash resulting in serious injury may now be charged with a Class D felony. A crash resulting in death now meets the criteria for motor vehicle homicide, a Class C felony.
Our experience coming home that night led to a realization. I expected to be indignant over the distracted driver’s choice … his choice that placed a distraction over the safety of my family. Instead, I found myself more alarmed that I wasn’t surprised by his choice. In a way, I had almost expected someone to eventually cross the centerline in front of us. Isn’t it a sad realization that we are no longer surprised by distracted drivers and the habits they have formed?
Old habits do die hard. We expect the new distracted driving law to help break some of those habits.
Trooper Vince Kurtz #495
Iowa State Patrol Public Resource Unit