Starting yesterday and today, new Iowa and Indiana laws on distracted driving will be enforced. Both laws are steps in the right direction, but are still lacking real teeth, and fall far below the standards set by other states. Here is a short breakdown of each law, and how TADD would like to see them strengthened.
Indiana: Starting yesterday, June 30th, Indiana made texting while driving against the law. Included in this law is wording that makes writing or reading emails on your phone against the law as well. The penalty for being caught texting and driving is a $500 fine, and potentially more depending on whether or not the action caused an accident. While this fine is rather substantial, especially in comparison to some other states, the law is incredibly narrow.
For one, the law only bans texting and emails. This means that a driver in Indiana can legally browse Facebook, read the news on their phones, and do any other activity on their phones that does not involve texting or emailing. Another way the law falls short is it does not give law enforcement many ways to actually enforce the law. A police officer that suspects someone of texting while driving cannot demand that someone hands over their cell phone. With such a narrow law and an inability to enforce it to the fullest extent, it is difficult to see how this law will significantly cut down on distracted driving in the state.
Iowa: Starting today, Iowa has enacted a law that bans texting while driving. For the last year, law enforcement has been issuing warnings for people that were caught texting and driving, but now if they are found guilty, the act will result in a $30-$125 fine. As the first law in the state against the act of texting while driving, it is nice to see Iowa taking a step in the right direction; however, this law falls short in many regards.
One of the biggest problems with the law is that it is a secondary offense. This means that the fine for texting while driving can only be enforced if the texter is caught breaking another law. Another issue with the law is how low the fine is. In order for a law like this to hold up, there has to be a strong deterrent against the action, and this small amount of money will likely not be enough for most people. Like the Indiana law as well, this law makes no mention of other distracted activities on cell phones.
While these laws do lack teeth in many regards, it is good to see both states taking action against this incredibly dangerous activity. Hopefully each state legislature will be able to build off of this base in the following years to increase penalties and make them universal for all non-hands free use of cell phones while driving.
Teens Against Distracted Driving was founded by Seattle auto accident lawyer Jason Epstein. Jason works on TADD in his spare time, but spends the weekdays working on personal injury cases as a partner with the Seattle law firm, Premier Law Group.