Iowa State troopers issue far more tickets for texting

Iowa State Texting tickets

The number of texting while driving tickets has skyrocketed in the two months since the newly enacted law calling for tougher punishments for offenders took effect July 1.  The Iowa State Patrol has issued 230 tickets and 135 warnings for texting while driving since July 1, far more than troopers issued all last year.  State patrol troopers issued fewer than 175 tickets for texting in 2016.  “I’m just watching people’s behaviors as they go by,” Trooper Durk Pearston said.  Officials say it will cost you if you don't put the phone down.  A KCCI crew rode along with the Iowa State Patrol, and it didn't take long to find someone breaking the law.  “The guy had his cell phone, still has it in his right hand there, but had it down in his lap by the steering wheel,” Pearston said.  Alex Dinkla, an Iowa State Patrol spokesperson, said with the law being so new, they have to come up with creative ways to catch drivers in the act.  Watching driving habits isn’t easy in a marked car.  “Any time we have a marked law enforcement unit, full light bars, full stickers on the car, is people will instantly see that unit and they put their phone down and we know that right afterwards, they’re probably picking that phone back up,” Dinkla said.  Some people are so intrigued by their phone, even that doesn't stop them.  “We’re finding it is pretty personnel intensive, so that way we can try to find people that are texting and driving but also to be able to prosecute those charges as well,” Dinka said.  Officials said though talking on your phone is not illegal, it can be just as much of a distraction.  “You’re driving for yourself. But you also have to drive for everybody else on the road that might be on their phone or texting while driving,” Pearston said.  Officers are using unmarked vehicles and plain-clothed troopers to catch motorists, but it can still be difficult for them to spot violations, said Maj. Randy Kunert, who heads the state patrol’s field operations.  “The districts reported success in finding some violations, but indicated it is still a hard violation to detect,” he said.  “It is very personnel intensive and often only one or two traffic stops were made per hour.”  Sen. Tim Kapucian, R-Keystone, said the enforcement efforts send a strong message to the community that texting while driving isn’t acceptable.  “You know, the word gets out and people will say, ‘Hey, I got a ticket for texting while driving,’ and that is going to reverberate with folks,” Kapucian said.  Texting while driving increases the risk of crashing more than 20 times when compared to driving while not distracted, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.  The fine for texting while driving is $30, but court costs bring the total cost to about $100, according to the Legislative Services Agency.  Forty-seven states prohibit texting while driving and 15 ban drivers from using hand-held cellphones altogether, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

9/5/17

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