- Associated Press - Sunday, August 21, 2016

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Iowa law prohibits texting and driving, but few people in Sioux City are receiving tickets for the offense.

The Sioux City Journal reports (https://bit.ly/2b9SNKp ) that over the past five years Sioux City police have issued 18 texting while driving tickets and the Woodbury County Sheriff’s office has issued nine.

Sioux City Police Sgt. Todd Sassman said the texting law has been difficult to enforce because it’s a secondary violation that’s only enforced after a driver is pulled over for something else.

And the law still allows some electronic device use even though it bans text messages or using Twitter or Facebook.

Gov. Terry Branstad has said he’s looking at the possibility of proposing a complete cellphone ban next year. He has appointed a group to study ways to reduce distracted driving.

Pat Hoye, with the Governor’s Highway Traffic Safety Bureau, said he has heard other law enforcement agencies say that the secondary nature of the offense makes enforcement limited.

“The biggest obstacle law enforcement tells me is that even as you’re sitting at a stoplight and it’s obvious they are texting, if there’s no (other) violation, you’re not going to be able to stop them,” he said.

Sassman said it can be difficult for officers to tell whether a driver is texting or doing something legal, such as dialing a call or looking at a map program. Searching a person’s phone for proof requires a warrant and additional investigation.

Maj. Todd Weick with the Woodbury County Sheriff’s office said it’s not practical to search a driver’s phone for something that’s punishable by a $30 fine.

“It’s a lengthy process,” he said. “Obviously just for a normal traffic stop, our guys don’t do that.”

Traffic data show that distracted driving is a growing problem on Iowa roads. There were 1,100 crashes last year in which a driver was distracted by a cellphone or other device. In 2014, that number was 771.

There were 14 deaths linked to those distracted driving cases in Iowa last year.


Information from: Sioux City Journal, https://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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