Capital Clicks

Senate committee approves bill to require ‘hands free’ calls in vehicles

By: - March 8, 2023 4:50 pm

A bill advancing in the Iowa Senate would limit the use of electronic devices by drivers while on traveled portions of roadways. (Stock photo via Canva)

A bill in the Iowa Senate that would limit the use of electronic devices by drivers while on traveled portions of roadways received bipartisan support from a committee on Wednesday.

“High speed is probably the No. 1 killer on our roadways; the No. 2 is distracted driving,” said Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque.

Senate File 207 was easily approved Wednesday by the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which paves the way for its consideration by the full Senate. A similar bill in the Iowa House did not survive a recent legislative deadline for further consideration.

Current law prohibits drivers from sending and viewing electronic messages but allows cellphones to be used for navigation. The new bill requires electronic devices to be operated without hands, aside from a potential touch to activate voice operations on them.

Similar bills last year did not get sufficient support for adoption.

“There’s been a lot of deaths recently of cyclists where individuals aren’t paying attention,” said Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, who rides bicycles recreationally. “They’re distracted, and and it’s something that’s preventable. Distraction isn’t just cell phones, but this bill at least is the first step in the right direction.”

The new legislation follows the acquittal of a Clarksville man who struck and killed a cyclist in 2020 when he looked at his cellphone. His attorney successfully argued that the man didn’t violate current law because he looked at a notification of an electronic message and not the message itself. The cyclist’s parents supported the new bill in a subcommittee meeting in January.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register.