Iowa Senate OKs bill that would allow law enforcement to better regulate texting while driving

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Law enforcement officials will be able to more easily regulate Iowa's ban on texting while driving under a bill the Senate passed Tuesday.

The Senate voted 44-6 to make texting while driving a primary offense instead of a secondary one. It now heads to the House for consideration.

Iowa law prohibits a person from reading, writing and sending messages on an electronic device while driving. The bill would remove a stipulation that a law enforcement official must stop a person for a different offense to enforce it.

"What we have here is a failure to communicate safely," said Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, who is supervising the bill. "Texting while driving is dangerous. Contrary to popular belief, you can't text and drive well."

Most lawmakers in the chambers voted for the bill. But some Republicans questioned whether the legislation was needed at all.

There are "a lot of things that are out there you should not be doing and I get so tired of adding to the Iowa Code book on a yearly basis, common sense," said Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale. "I certainly acknowledge that texting is bad," he said, adding that so are "so many other things."

An earlier version of the bill would have banned a person in Iowa from using a hand-held device while driving, but the language was removed in committee. A distracted driving bill was also introduced last session, but it failed to garner enough support.

This bill, proposed by the state Department of Public Safety, has Gov. Terry Branstad's support. Bowman has said he thinks the bill has a better chance of advancing this year because of that.

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