DES MOINES, Iowa — The message is clear: put down your phone when you’re behind the wheel or you could see flashing lights in the rearview mirror.
On Monday morning Governor Terry Branstad signed legislation into law making it illegal to use a “handheld electronic communication device” to “write, view or send” an electronic message. Simply put most every use of a cell phone or gaming device while driving a vehicle is now a primary offense meaning you can be pulled over and ticketed if you’re spotted using one.
The bill was a legislative priority of the governor and both Democrats and Republicans in the legislature this year.
The governor issued a statement after signing the bills saying he hopes the new measures cut down on distracted driving and end the “disturbing trend of traffic deaths on our roads.”
The bill’s language goes further than the previous texting-only bill. The new bill bans texting and using social media while driving by making all aspects of exchanging and viewing electronic messages illegal. It is still legal to use a device in a hands free mode. It is still legal to check your phone in case of a weather or traffic alert. First responders and law enforcement are exempt from the law if they are using an electronic device while performing official duties.