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Texting ban enjoys wide support among parents

BY JOSEPH BELK | JANUARY 25, 2010 7:30 AM

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A majority of Iowa parents in a UI survey support a ban on texting while driving — an action that could soon be illegal if a bill in the state Legislature becomes law.

Bills drafted by legislators would put varying restrictions on mobile-phone use behind the wheel.
A telephone survey conducted jointly by UI and University of North Carolina researchers found significant support of a ban on cell-phone use while driving among parents of Iowa teen drivers. In a sample of more than 1,000 parents, around 97 percent supported a ban on text messaging while driving, and roughly 90 percent were in favor of a total ban on cell-phone use while driving.

Daniel McGehee, director of the UI Public Policy Center’s Human Factors and Vehicle Safety Research Program, presented the findings of the recent survey to legislators last week.

He will return to Des Moines on Tuesday to testify before the transportation subcommittee about other UI studies on distracted driving.

“Texting is really the worst of the worst,” said McGehee, who noted texting is more dangerous than other distractions because it frequently diverts the driver’s attention.

Sen. Tom Rielly, D-Oskaloosa, the head of the transportation subcommittee, said texting while driving is one of the panel’s biggest issues.

Nationwide, an estimated 1.6 million crashes — 28 percent of all accidents — are caused by cell-phone use while driving, more than 200,000 of which are attributed to texting, according to a report from the National Safety Council.

The report also said most people talk rather than text while driving, but it maintained that texting is much riskier.

UI freshman Brian Neale said texting while driving is “stupid” and “extremely dangerous.”

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said there is an increased interest in taking a look at the issue in the Legislature. He thinks a bill has a chance of passing by April, when the legislative session is scheduled to end, he said.

Bolkcom presented a bill in 2009, but it did not pass.

A bill he introduced this session would restrict cell-phone use while operating a vehicle to headsets or hands-free devices in addition to banning texting.

However, McGehee said, no studies have found that hands-free devices are less distracting.

Troy Price, the communications director for Gov. Chet Culver, said the governor supports legislation to prohibit texting while driving.

The majority of those surveyed in the recent UI study also favored provisions expanding restrictions on Iowa’s graduated driver’s license. Suggestions include limiting the number of teen passengers for new drivers and prohibiting driving past 10 p.m.


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