Texting and driving in Iowa is becoming increasingly problematic, even with the 2011 legislation to try and deter it.
Crash history reports from the Iowa DOT show that crashes have steadily increased in the last decade, with 7,000 crashes and 24 deaths.
One problem is that in Iowa, using a phone while driving is not a primary offense; meaning officers need another reason to pull the driver over, like a broken headlight or swerving in their lane. The penalty for operating a phone while driving is a simple misdemeanor and a fine of $30.
According to Iowa Watch, an average of only 2.5 drivers per county were convicted for texting last year.
“Really, what it comes down to is, we’re a generation that has gotten used to gadgets and technology,” said Dan Loussart, an Iowa State Trooper. “We get used to using them and, as we get more and more technology, we create a bigger and worse habit.”
Loussart said he feels it’s more of a generation thing, and that people can bring the texting and driving rates down by teaching their kids through good example.
“If I don’t want my kids to be using the phone while they’re driving, then I better not be using the phone while I’m driving,” Loussart said.
Loussart said he hopes texting and driving will get better with time, just as drinking and driving and driving without a seat-belt have over the years.
“We have made a lot of progress on intoxicated drivers out there on the road; and when I say progress, there’s less and there’s better enforcement. People are creating better habits and realizing it’s a safety issue,” said Loussart. “Same with seat belts. You know 20-plus years ago, when I first started, there were a lot less people wearing seat belts. Now, those good habits have created a safer environment for all of us, and we realize there’s a problem and we’re making better choices as a society.”
That’s exactly what Bruce Kindig, a Drivers-Ed Teacher for the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency (AEA) said he’s trying to teach.
“Well certainly we tell them don’t do it,” said Kindig. “Turn the phone off, put it away, put it in a pocket, put it somewhere where it’s not easily accessible.”
Kindig makes his students give him their cell phones before they even get in the car, to remove any chance of distracted driving.
“Nothing is more important than the driving of the car. For you to take your eyes off the roads to text or look up a number, it’s not worth it,” said Kindig. “Believe me, if you’re traveling a hundred feet per second and you’ve got your eyes off the road for a while, you’ve traveled a long way without seeing the road.”