On Thursday we spoke with State Representative Curt Hanson (D-Fairfield) regarding House File 2456.
This new law is intended to ban "texting while driving," as well as the use of cell phones for all drivers under the age of 18 unless it is installed in the vehicle or operated through permanently installed equipment.
While the penalties for violators will not start until July 1st, 2011, a year-long education period is beginning. Patrolman will issue warning citations to violators...and fines next year.
"Now it's estimated that millions of people are texting, and a lot of those people are texting as they go down the highway. And this is as dangerous, they say, as driving with a blood alcohol level of .23 which is a very, very high concentration of alcohol," Representative Hanson said.
He told KTVO that it was difficult legislation to get approved, but the one-year educational period was essential.
"And that was a critical thing in getting the passage of the bill because this bill was not an easy thing to get passed. There were people on both sides of the issue that thought it should not be passed the way it is. When you have that kind of a situation, you know that you're getting a truly bi-partisan bill that is kind of down the middle of the political aisle," Representative Hanson said.
While he was surprised that a freshman member of Congress could get this legislation passed, Representative Hanson thought the bill was dead several times. He told us Thursday that he was "pleased something could be done" before it gets out of hand.
"And it's probably going to be a national problem as more and more people try to text. I'm confident that technology is going to be a part of our solution as some of the apps and everything that are coming out for phones that will actually read your text message to you verbally, or orally, as you drive along," Representative Hanson said.
He stated that texting while driving is a national "21st Century problem that was not thought of in the 20th Century."
You can find more information about the new Iowa laws taking effect July 1st on the website for the Iowa House of Representatives.