- Associated Press - Monday, July 4, 2016

MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) - The number of people killed or injured in accidents caused by use of electronic devices doubled in Iowa last year.

Fourteen people were killed statewide in 2015, compared to seven the previous year, according to the Globe Gazette in Mason City (http://bit.ly/29eSvhZ ).

The Iowa Department of Transportation says 601 people were injured in those types of accidents last year, up from 270 in 2014. The overall number of accidents caused by distracted driving rose to 1,100 last year, a 43 percent increase from 2014.

“We have to do something,” said Pat Hoye, bureau chief for the Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau.

Hoye said one reason for the increase is the growing use of cellphones. Although any use of a phone while driving can cause distraction, texting is even more dangerous because “it requires more concentrated thinking and taking a hand off the wheel,” he said.

Texting while driving has been a primary offense in Iowa for drivers age 14-17 since 2010, meaning officers can pull them over and write them a ticket if they see them doing it.

It is still only a secondary offense for adults, which means they can only be cited for texting while driving if they are first pulled over for some other offense.

In 2015, the Iowa Senate passed a bill that would make texting while driving a primary offense for adults, but it did not pass in the House.

“We are encouraging legislators to look at this in the upcoming session,” Hoye said.

State Rep. Sharon Steckman, D-Mason City, said when she is on the road she can tell when other drivers are texting because they are traveling slower or weaving back and forth across the center line.

State Sen. Mary Jo Wilhelm, D-Cresco, said she is sure the issue will come up for discussion again next year in the legislature and she hopes this time making texting while driving a primary offense will pass.

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Information from: Globe Gazette, http://www.globegazette.com/

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