Senate Panel Approves Tougher Penalties For Texting While Driving

A senate committee has unanimously approved more than tripling the fine for people caught handling their smart phone while driving. Drivers gripping their cell to text or talk when they’re involved in serious accidents could have their driver’s licenses suspended for three months if the bill becomes law. Senator Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Cedar Falls, says modern technology provides plenty of “hands-free” options for drivers.

“I am a fire fighter,” Danielson says. “…It is a pretty common occurrence on accident scenes to see the phone somewhere on the dash, in the driver’s seat on and clear that they were using it during the accident.” Senator Mark Lofgren (LOFF-gren), a Republican from Muscatine, says as a runner, he’s worried about drivers distracted by their smart phones.

“It’s dangerous out there,” Lofgren says. “The last few years, as I run through intersections and everything, you have to be really careful.” The current fine for drivers caught texting and driving is 30 dollars. This bill would raise that to 100 dollars. Drivers involved in serious accidents while they’re texting or handling their cell phone could be fined five-hundred dollars. If the accident causes a death, the fine would jump to one-thousand dollars. The bill cleared the Senate Transportation Committee Wednesay afternoon and is now eligible for debate in the full Senate.