Bill to ban use of electronic devices while driving fails

Rep. Ann Meyer had proposed legislation as safety measure

State Rep. Ann Meyer thought she was introducing a pretty simple way to improve safety on the roads when she proposed banning the use of electronic devices by drivers unless they were in hands-free mode.

The Republican from Fort Dodge was encouraged when her bill won unanimous approval from a subcommittee in the House of Representatives early this year. But that was as far as the measure got.

During the Eggs and Issues forum Saturday, she reported that the bill “died in the House.”

“I’m very discouraged about that,” she said.

The bill encountered opposition for two reasons, she said.

She said some opponents argued that it gave police too much authority to look in people’s vehicles.

Others, she said, argued that the proposal would give police more reasons to pull over drivers who are minorities.

The bill banned the use of phones and any other electronic devices by people who were driving unless those devices were in hands-free mode. It included a $100 fine for violations. However, law enforcement officers could only issue warnings until Jan. 1, 2022. After that date, citations including fines could be issued, under Meyer’s bill.

“I literally was shocked,” Meyer said of the response to her bill.

“I thought this was going to be an easy bill,” she added.

State statistics from 2019, the most recent year for which there is complete data, show that electronic devices played a role in nearly 2,000 crashes.

According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, there were 1,099 crashes in that year which were caused by drivers who were distracted by a phone or other electronic device. Those crashes caused three deaths and 538 injuries.


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