Summer is just around the corner, school will soon be out, and summer activities will be in full-swing. With the change in seasons, many of us will begin travel and vacations. I have appreciated the honor of serving another session in the legislature, yet I am also excited for more time with my family and the many adventures we have planned.
As travel season is upon us, I am reminded of several legislative accomplishments this year to improve traffic safety. Over the past few years, traffic deaths have increased considerably in the state. From 2015 to 2016 alone, traffic deaths increased from 315 to 402.
A major cause for the increase in deaths and injuries is distracted driving in which a primary cause is cell-phone usage while driving. Throughout the year, several different ideas were considered to mitigate the danger of phone usage from behind the wheel. Ultimately, the legislature sent Senate File 234 to the Governor which, most notably, makes texting and driving a primary offense while clarifying that using voice-operated hands-free texting functionality will continue to be permitted.
Under current law, texting while driving is illegal, but is only a secondary offense, meaning law enforcement is not able to pull drivers over solely for that reason. This bill will also allow peace officers to stop drivers who are seen texting behind the wheel. Senate File 234 was signed by the Governor on April 17th and will be effective on July 1st, with law enforcement limited to issuing warnings for the first year. More information on the bill is available here.
Another notable traffic safety bill passed this year was Senate File 444, known as the 24/7 sobriety program. This program requires certain offenders charged with alcohol or controlled substance violations to report twice a day for alcohol and drug testing as a condition of a bond, pretrial release, sentence, probation, parole, or a temporary restricted license. This voluntary approach has been used in other states to successfully reduce deaths and injuries resulting from drunk driving.
The program has not just the benefit of preventing a repeat violation, but to encourage sobriety altogether. Senate File 444 also increases penalties for a driver killing another as a result of texting while driving. The bill was signed by the Governor on April 17th and will be effective on July 1st. More information on the bill is available here.
More Traffic-Related Bills:
House File 313 - Require a driver to first remove the driver’s vehicle from the traveled portion of the roadway if the vehicle is operable and can be safely moved in the event of an accident. This bill has not yet been signed by the Governor.
House File 372 - Iowa law currently allows drivers to turn right-on-red and left-on-red from a one-way street to a one-way street. However, it is only allowed from the furthest right or left lane. This bill allows drivers to turn right-on-red and left-on-red from a one-way street to a one-way street from any designated turn lane. This bill was signed by the Governor on March 23rd and will be effective July 1st.
House File 463 - Allows Dept. of Transportation enforcement officers to enforce traffic laws for non-commercial traffic with certain restrictions and specifies that their primary duty should be enforcement of commercial traffic. This bill has not yet been signed by the Governor.