New Law Has Officers on the Lookout for Distracted Drivers

DES MOINES, Iowa -- We're now six days into Iowa's new texting and driving law, which makes that behavior a primary offense, and officers are on the lookout for distracted drivers. WHO-TV Channel 13 News caught up with young people and asked them about their texting and driving habits and those of their friends, and they were very honest about their behavior.

“I’m guilty of texting and driving. I do it quite often," said Gracie Smith of Clive.  Smith said Snapchat is what she uses most and admitted it's very tempting to text and drive, explaining "because I`ve got my phone plugged in and I`m playing music and it`s sitting right there, and my screen is facing towards me. I mean, every time it lights up, I want to check it," said Smith.

Smith's boyfriend, Caeden Paisley of Clive, agreed that young drivers often text and drive. "Oh, it`s really popular. Everyone texts and drives and Snapchat and Twitter and all that," said Paisley. "I`m not a big texter while I drive, and I always get mad at her (Gracie Smith) whenever she does it," said Paisley.

"On occasion yes, at stop signs, at stop lights, I have to admit, yes I do," said Quinn Hemesath of West Des Moines. "Our minds are so addicted to these devices that we just can`t wait. We hear that ding or that buzz and we`re just like man, I got to check it right now, it can`t wait," said Hemesath.

And that's exactly what police are now out there looking for on the roads, to enforce the new law.

"Basically what we’re looking for 9is) any type of behavior where people are checking their Facebook status or some social media website, and doing things other than just generally talking on the phone or using it as a GPS when they’re traveling down the roadway," said Sgt. Chad Underwood of the Urbandale Police Department.

Sgt. Underwood said officers have ways of being able to tell what drivers are doing on their phones.

"It`s just like any other traffic offense or criminal investigation that we work, you know, we learn through observations. We`re watching people...we look for things, like failing to take off at a greenlight on time or swerving or driving erratically. To us, that would indicate that the person may be distracted by something else going on in the car," said Sgt. Underwood.

Sgt. Anthony Giampolo echoed that sentiment. "They`re (officers) always looking for traffic violations out there. Now, they`re probably going to be looking for specific cell phones that are up being manipulated," said Sgt Giampolo. "Maybe the color of the cell phone cases, things like that, just so when they approach the car, they can say they saw this particular phone and maybe you were manipulating it in a manner that would show they were sending a text or receiving a text."