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New bills would save lives on Iowa roads

Cracking down on unsafe driving

February 5, 2010
By State Sen. Tom Rielly (D-Oskaloosa)
On January 26, the Senate Transportation Committee heard testimony about the dangers of distracted driving from Colonel Pat Hoye, chief of the Iowa State Patrol, and researchers from the University of Iowa and the National Safety Council.

Their presentations confirmed what is increasingly clear to all who use our roads: distracted driving has become a dangerous epidemic.

Studies show texting to be the most dangerous distraction because it requires both eyes and hands. Texting while driving can increase the chance of a crash by as much as 23 times and can impair drivers in the same way alcohol does.

At any given moment, 11 percent of drivers on the road are using a cell phone, and about 1 percent are texting or sending e-mail.

This session, we’ll consider a number of distracted driving bills that range from texting bans to bans on all cell phone use while driving in an effort to keep Iowa roads safe for all.

Helping young drivers become safer drivers

Did you know that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Iowa teens? By helping teens develop good driving habits, we can save lives.

The House and Senate Transportation committees recently heard from researchers at the University of Iowa and the University of North Carolina about strengthening our driver licensing system to better protect young drivers.

The researchers’ recommendations are included in a new bill (SSB 3071) that would:

•Restrict the number of passengers in teen cars. Teens are twice as likely to have an accident with two passengers as they are with one passenger and three times as likely to have an accident with three passengers. Under the bill, intermediate license holders could have only one passenger who is under 21 and not a sibling or member of the same household. The passenger restriction would also apply to school licenses.

• Limit driving without a parent after 11 p.m. Accidents among 16 and 17 year olds go up approximately 300 percent between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Under the legislation, parents could sign a waiver for the teen to drive to work or school-related activities after 11 p.m.

•Extend the length of time for supervised driving. Right now, Iowa teens must hold an intermediate license for six months. Our new bill would increase the time to 12 months so that young drivers can get experience in all seasons and road conditions. Imagine driving in Iowa’s recent blizzard conditions if you had only been taught to drive during the summer!

North Carolina experienced a 38-percent reduction in accidents for 16 year olds and a 20-percent reduction for 17 year olds when it adopted these measures. Nighttime accidents were reduced by 66 percent over the course of four years. Accidents with multiple passengers were cut in half.

While there are some who think we should only address the budget this year, I believe we should consider legislation that will save lives as well. Remember, we all share the roads.

To review the bill, go to

Enhancing penalties for running red lights

The Senate Judiciary Committee recently passed SF 2109, which increases penalties for drivers who kill or seriously injure someone while running a red light.

The current penalty for running a red light is a $35 fine. Under the proposed legislation, if a driver runs a red light and someone is seriously injured as a result, the driver will be subject to a fine of up to $500 and/or suspension of driving privileges for up to 90 days. If someone dies as a result of a driver running a red light, the fine can be up to $1,000 and suspension of driving privileges for up to 180 days.

Read the full bill at

This is a legislative update from Senator Tom Rielly, representing Iowa, Poweshiek, and Keokuk counties, and portions of Mahaska and Tama counties. For newsletters, photos and further information, go to

To contact Senator Rielly during the week, call the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371. On weekends he can be reached at home at 641-673-0359. E-mail him at

Article Photos

Sen. Rielly



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