Iowa State Patrol begins distracted driver enforcement
Iowa recorded 1,230 crashes attributed to distractions in 2016. Thirteen of these crashes took a life. In an effort to combat this issue, the Iowa State Patrol will be increasing enforcement efforts in new and innovative ways.
Iowa’s distracted driving law now authorizes law enforcement to conduct traffic stops based solely upon a distracted driving violation. Here is an Iowa State Patrol summary of the law change that went into effect on July 1:
• 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 Iowa 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.
Troopers across the state will be increasing enforcement efforts in this area using traditional high visibility patrol, as well as the use of unmarked patrol cars. New to this effort will be the use of undercover “spotter” vehicles. These spotter vehicles will be operated by troopers looking for distracted driving violations. When a violation is observed, a uniformed trooper nearby will be notified to take enforcement action. All enforcement action will be conducted by uniformed troopers.
A violation of this law will cost $100.50 in fines, court costs, and surcharges.
The Iowa State Patrol encourages drivers to avoid all distractions when behind the wheel.