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Opinion

Distracted driving in Iowa

Distracted driving has been a common transportation hazard for several years. In visiting with law enforcement officers, several have shared some very scary situations that they have come across.

Scenarios range from motorists applying makeup while driving to eating sit-down food (requiring utensils) to reading magazines or books to things that would raise your eyebrows to have printed here. With the advent of the smart phone, reports of distracted driving – not surprisingly — are rapidly on the increase; creating more of a serious problem than ever before.

A recent statistic claims that each day in the US, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,153 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. While this statistic might seem high, it is less surprising when one learns that at any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving.

Studies have found that 5 seconds is the average time that a driver’s eyes are not on the road while they are on an electronic device. This equates to traveling the length of a football field blindfolded while driving 55 mph.

Teenagers are even more susceptible to distracted driving, as 77 percent of young adults surveyed admit to being at least somewhat confident in their ability to safely drive while texting. Despite many young adults feeling confident in their abilities to text and drive, 21 percent of teen drivers involved in fatal accidents were distracted by their cell phones.

Several states have addressed this by passing laws that put restrictions on distracted driving, specifically texting while driving. Iowa is among the 46 states that ban texting while driving, however Iowa differs from most states in the fact that texting while driving is a secondary offense.

In past legislative sessions, there has been talk of increasing restrictions on texting while driving and given the sharp increase of traffic fatalities during the last calendar year, it is an issue that has received a lot of attention already in the early stages of the 2017 session.

The law enforcement officers I have visited with have asked to make distracted driving a primary offense so they can stop a driver when they view them manipulating their electronic devices, among other things, while behind the wheel. Another request is to just prohibit hand held electronic devices while operating a vehicle altogether. I fully expect to see movement on this issue this year.

This Friday, I will be holding town hall forums at the D&S Café in Melcher at 6:30 a.m. and at Two Rivers Co-op in Tracy at 8:30 a.m.

If you are unable to attend one of my forums in person, please feel free to contact me with your issue by phone or email. I appreciate and welcome your comments and feedback. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to my weekly e-newsletter, in order to keep up-to-date on happenings at the Capitol.

Until next time, God bless.

Contact Rep. Greg Heartsill at 641-218-0185 or greg.heartsill@legis.iowa.gov

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