Iowa Senate Working on Hands-Free Cell Phone Bill

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Dwight Dufoe makes his living as a driver and says people using their cell phones on the road is his biggest pet peeve.

“They have their head down and they are talking and they are concentrating on talking. They're not looking. They just don’t pay attention. It's just crazy sometimes,” Dufoe said.

Dufoe supports the bill which would make all cell phone use while driving illegal, unless it is hands-free. The bill has passed out of subcommittee and now moves on to a full committee hearing.

State Senator Jeff Danielson, one of the lawmakers working on the bill, says it is not just about annoying drivers on the road.

“People do it because they think they're safe. They overestimate their own ability, but what we know is looking at a cell phone and using a cell phone while you're driving has the same error rate as being drunk,” said Danielson.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost 3,500 people were killed in 2016 in crashes involving distracted driving. Danielson says a full ban should be easier for police to enforce over the current bill that forbids texting and driving.

“The problem was there is one exemption, and that is if you use your phone for GPS navigation. So, how does law enforcement observing you in the car when you've got the phone up to your face and you're going through the motions, they don’t know whether that is GPS or not,” he said.

However, some are less optimistic. Wisconsin native Mikki Fjelstad says her home state forbids all phone use in work zones, but it hasn't made a difference.

“People still use them, talk on them, text on them. You can tell when they are when you're behind them,” said Fjelstad.

The new bill would increase the current penalty from $30 dollars to $100 dollars. Courts could also tack on up to additional $500 and suspend a license for up to 90 days.

An exception would be made in the case of an emergency.

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