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Iowa Lawmakers Pass Pathetic Anti-Texting Bill to Governor

Texting on a touch screen phone
Keith Bell

Three weeks ago, I wrote about how important it was that Iowa law enforcement be able to stop drivers just for seeing them texting. Right now, officers must have another reason for stopping someone behind the wheel. The Iowa Senate had passed a bill at that time and had sent it to the House.

The good news is the Iowa House has also passed the bill allowing officers to stop drivers they see texting. They’ve passed the bill on to Governor Branstad, according to WHO. In my mind, there’s one MAJOR problem. The fine would be thirty dollars. A thirty dollar fine for the woman I saw driving north on Edgewood Road this past weekend, weaving all over her lane, with both hands attached to the cell phone at the top of her steering wheel?! I’m sorry Des Moines lawmakers, but that’s not going to deter most people from texting and that’s terrible news.

Compare the cost of a fine for texting to one for speeding in Iowa. According to Nerd Wallet, the total cost of a speeding ticket for going 11 to 15 miles-per-hour over the posted speed limit is approximately $168. In my mind, there’s no disputing that speed kills but distracted driving is also very dangerous. A difference of well over $100 seems like too wide of a gap, and yes I know there would likely be court costs involved with a texting ticket which would narrow the dollar difference.

I was discussing my frustration with Danielle, and she brought up a couple good points. Could an officer mistake someone checking their GPS or answering a phone call for texting? Maybe that’s part of the reason for the fine being relatively low? Yes, those are things that could definitely happen and perhaps is part of the explanation for the level of the fine. Still, I believe the vast majority of fines for texting would be warranted and $30 is just too puny of a fine. If it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t matter. Thirty dollars isn’t going to hurt hardly anyone enough to matter.

UPDATE 4 p.m. (4/11): Cedar Rapids Attorney-at-Law Carrie Bryner passed along some information that makes me feel a whole lot better about the $30 fine. Here’s what she says:

While $30 does seem incredibly low, there is an additional 35% surcharge on that fine plus court costs of $60 which makes the fine total $100.50. It still may not be enough to be a deterrent, but it does add to the total. All traffic tickets receive the same surcharge and court costs.  So a speeding ticket could equal $168, but the actual fine would be much less.  In fact, traveling six to 10 miles over the speed limit is only a fine $40, but with surcharge and court costs it totals $114.00.  Not sure that this makes a difference, but wanted you to know there was a bit more to it.

I think it makes a huge difference and would love to hear your thoughts below in the comments section.

Iowa Drivers Could Soon Be Stopped Just For Using Cell Phone

[via WHO and Nerd Wallet]

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