DES MOINES, Iowa -- 2016 was an awful year for Iowa drivers.
“Four hundred fatalities isn’t acceptable,” says Pat Hoye, of the Governor’s Traffic and Safety Bureau.
With 404 deaths on Iowa roads, 2016 was the worst in a decade. Officials across the state can point to one reason why the number was so high.
“I think the one that is driving the fatalities up is distracted driving,” said Hoye.
The GTSB tracks all the distracted driving accidents, and the numbers are trending the wrong way--so much so the GTSB is throwing out the term epidemic.
“If you look around, you see it every day. You don’t need to be a police officer. You don’t need to be a legislator. You see it every day when you go out here,” said Hoye.
After working with lawmakers for the past three years, the state will make it a lot tougher to text and drive. Starting July 1st, it will now be a primary offense. That means you can get pulled over if you’re using your phone for anything other than GPS or calls. The governor signed the bill into law on Monday, and Iowa will now be one of the toughest states on texting and driving.
“We were one of the last states to make it a primary offense to text and drive. There are only four states that hadn’t done that. So this is certainly a good step in the right direction. I think it’s going to make a difference,” said Governor Branstad.
Last year, 63% of all driving fatalities involved distracted driving. Hoye says the math is simple: by cutting the number of distracted drivers, the number of people who die on Iowa roads will also be reduced.
“Is it the total solution to traffic fatalities in the state of Iowa? It is not. We believe that it is a positive step. Between the enforcement, education, and public awareness that goes with this, we’re hopeful that we’ll see a sharp reduction in fatalities,” said Hoye.
The fine for texting behind the wheel will be $30, which could become more than $100 after court costs.