A hands-free bill introduced in the Iowa Senate in 2019 still has not passed, even as fatalities in the state are on the rise, reports the Iowa Capital Dispatch.
Presently, Iowa prohibits drivers from texting while behind the wheel, but they can make phone calls and use navigation systems. A hands-free law would ban any handheld use of cell phones with the goal of reducing distracted driving crashes.
Distraction by an electronic device has been involved in up to 14 fatalities a year in Iowa between 2015 and 2020, according to the report. Moreover, there have been a total of 197 fatalities in collisions on Iowa roads this year. That’s almost a 9% increase from the five-year average of 181 fatalities and a 5% increase from last year’s 187 highway deaths.
In addition to the Senate bill, there is also a similar counterpart in the House, reports the Dispatch.
The hands-free bills would ban electronic device use while driving, with exceptions for voice-activated or hands-free mode and select situations, such as emergencies. The Senate bill also includes an exception for accessing fleet management systems. Breaking the proposed law would incur a fine and a moving violation, which the bill said could be considered in a suspension of a driver’s license or for habitual offender status.
As many states have recognized, hands-free laws are much easier to enforce because it’s often difficult for officers to prove that a person was texting just because he or she is holding a phone. In the case of a hands-free law, the driver either has a cell phone in their hand or they don't.
Some 30 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using handheld cellphones, according to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association.