- Associated Press - Thursday, February 20, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa lawmakers on Thursday advanced a bill that would further crack down on texting while driving by allowing law enforcement officials to pull drivers over for that sole offense.

The Senate Transportation Committee approved the measure Thursday on an 11-1 vote, with Sen. Jerry Behn, R-Boone, voting against it. The bill is now up for debate on the Senate floor.

Current law prohibits texting while driving, but police can only enforce that law when pulling a driver over for a different violation. Under the proposal, officers could stop a person suspected of texting while driving, regardless of whether there is another infraction.

Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, who sponsors the bill, said he is looking to make Iowa roadways safer with this legislation.

“This isn’t just about teenagers texting anymore,” he said. “It’s about us. This is about adults.”

Bowman also acknowledged that the legislation is not a means of completely eliminating distracted driving, but he said it’s a step in the right direction toward tackling the issue.

But Behn said he was hoping for legislation dealing with distracted driving as a whole.

“Quite frankly, there are other things that you can do while driving that are just as dangerous,” he said. “I mean, if you’re eating a sandwich from McDonald’s while going down the road or you’ve got your coffee stuck between your legs - I thought there should be a form of distracted driving that is all encompassing.”

Behn said the limited scope of the bill will not deter him from voting for it on the Senate floor.