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Texting While Driving: Iowa’s New Law

Iowa's new texting law makes illegal certain ways of communicating while driving.  Below is a summary of how this new law affects you:

All Drivers

All drivers are prohibited from reading, writing, or sending text messages or emails while they are driving unless the car is at a complete stop off the roadway.  Exceptions are the following:  1) using a GPS device, 2) sending text messages using voice commands, 3) entering a number to place a phone call, 4) truckers, bus drivers and emergency personnel may use digital dispatch systems, 5) public safety workers and healthcare professionals may read text messages as part of carrying out their official duties, and 6) all drivers may read messages about safety-related information such as Amber Alerts, traffic alerts, and whether alerts.

If drivers are found to have read, written or sent text messages or emails while driving, they will be guilty of a simple misdemeanor with a fine of $100, including court costs.  Violation does not constitute a "moving violation" and will not give rise to a suspension of your license.  Penalties are increased if you injure someone in an accident while texting or emailing.  Police officers are not entitled to stop you based only on a perceived texting violation.  If you are stopped, officers may not confiscate your phone.

Teen Drivers

Restrictions for teen drivers are more severe.  Teen drivers with a learner's permit, intermediate license, school license, or restricted work license are prohibited from using any electronic communication or entertainment device while driving unless the car is a complete stop off the roadway.  This means that in addition to the restrictions put on all drivers, teens may not talk on cellular phone while driving.  The only exceptions are teens who have devices that are permanently installed in their vehicle or that are operated through permanently installed equipment. 

A violation for a teen driver is a simple misdemeanor and a fine of $100, including court costs.  Again, the violation is not a "moving violation," however, a violation may give rise to license restrictions, suspended licenses or even a revocation of a teen's license.  As with the prohibition for all drivers, penalties increase if the teen injures someone while using an electronic communication or entertainment device.  Enforcement provisions are also slightly different than those for texting.  If a police officer sees a teen using the phone while driving, they may legally pull the teen over based only on that violation. 

During the first year of the new law's operation, police officers will be only giving out warnings to persons texting while driving.  However, after the first year, officers will be imposing citations and fines.  Remember, whether legal or not, the safer option is for all drivers to stay off their cell phones in order to avoid accidents caused by distracted driving.  Now read the full next of the new law, click here.  For more information on distracted driving, see the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website.

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