- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A bill that would ban a person in Iowa from holding a cellphone and talking while driving advanced through a Senate panel Thursday, and its support from Gov. Terry Branstad indicates it may have more momentum than similar legislation that failed last session.

A transportation subcommittee discussed some minor language changes to the bill before sending it to a full committee for consideration.

Current Iowa law prohibits reading, writing and sending messages on an electronic device while driving, though there’s a stipulation that an officer must be stopping a person for a different offense to enforce it. This bill would remove that circumstance.

The bill’s key point is that it would prohibit people from hand-held cellphone use. It would make Iowa the 14th state prohibiting such use, according to May 2014 data from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The bill has an exemption for a person using a GPS or a device in a hands-free or voice-activated mode.

Several groups spoke in favor of the bill Thursday and others said they were monitoring it. At least one lobbyist said drivers will continue to text and use their devices, and the bill may unintentionally encourage them to keep their eyes off the road for longer periods by trying to hide the devices.

The state Department of Public Safety is sponsoring the bill and it has Branstad’s support.

“With the governor’s support, this will certainly have a lot more of a chance,” said Sen. Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa, who sponsored a distracted driving bill last year that did not ban hand-held cellphone talking.

Bowman, who is also chair of the transportation committee, said he is interested in seeing how lawmakers will react to a ban on hand-held use. He said there was clear support last year for bans on many forms of distracted driving, but it may be murky when talking about a ban on hand-held devices.


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