Editorial: Curb texting and driving


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Iowa lawmakers have made a promising step in combating the rise of texting while driving, which has become an issue of public safety across the nation.

Iowa, along with states across the country, have adopted legislation to curb the use of phones while driving, which will ultimately save lives and create safer driving conditions for everyone on the road. In a 44-6 vote, the Iowa Senate passed a bill that would make texting while driving a primary offense, which equates to grounds for police to make a traffic stop.

The current Iowa law lists texting while driving as a secondary offense, not grounds for making the initial traffic stop. The fine for this violation is $30, but the effect of this bill is more than monetary. By making texting while driving a primary offense, it shifts it the connotation from that of a complementary misdeed to that of a definitive crime.

Texting while driving is a relatively new concern that has grown with the dependence on technology that defines modern life. The issue of distracted driving is one that needs to be taken seriously given that, in 2011, at least 23 percent of auto collisions involved cell phones, according to the National Safety Council.

As technology evolves and becomes interwoven in our lives, so must the level of responsibility and caution when using it. Sending a quick text or email is not as harmless as one mnight think, and the law must match the possible implications of those actions, e.g. death and suffering.

Inattentive and irresponsible vehicle operation is a problem that must be taken seriously — 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near crashes involve some form of driver distraction, according to the National Highway Safety Administration.

Texting while driving and other forms of distracted driving carry significant to risks to everyone on the road, and failing to treat it as a significant problem does every driver a disservice.

Those who oppose the bill have offered up the rationale that this bill is trespassing the jurisdiction of common knowledge. However, if drivers could be trusted to operate their vehicles responsibly, we would have no need for such laws nor the widespread implementation of similar laws across the country. This bill may not be enough to completely solve the problem of texting while driving in Iowa, but establishing firm punishments and the opportunity to punish is the first step in doing so.   

Part of the mentality that perpetuates reckless, distracted driving is the idea that it isn’t as bad driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In order to truly correct the problem, one must change the culture behind the crime, and this bill is primed to do just that. The most important step in addressing an issue is defining it as one.

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