Iowa Could Fine Drivers Caught Using Cell Phones

February 13, 2009

Some Iowa legislators have a message for cell phone users: stop talking or texting while driving.

A measure being considered in the Legislature would fine drivers $30 if they used their phones while behind the wheel.

“It doesn’t make sense anymore,” said Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines. “There’s a difference between convenience and safety and we have to come down on the side of safety.”

Abdul-Samad is the main backer of the measure, which would ban drivers from using cell phones or another “wireless communication device” while motoring in the state. Violators could be fined $30.

The measure was expected to clear a House committee and there appeared to momentum behind the effort.

Abdul-Samad said the need for the ban is obvious to most drivers, many of whom have stories of watching as other motorists weave down the road because they’re more focused on chatting than driving.

“It’s not unusual to see somebody swerve into another lane,” he said. “They can go completely across the road.”

Lawmakers have failed to pass a ban in previous session, but Abdul-Samad said the need for the new rule has increased as more people use their phones when they’re on the road.

His plan would allow exceptions.

Drivers could use any of a number of hands-free phones while driving, and cells phones could be used to call 911 or make other emergency calls. People also could use their phones if they pulled over and stopped.

“We’re not talking about a complete ban,” said Abdul-Samad. “To me that would be foolish.”

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