The new texting and driving law in Iowa – a technology twist …

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

Before July 1, 2017, in Iowa texting and driving was only a secondary offense, meaning that law enforcement could only give you a ticket for it if they had pulled you over for something else as well.

 Of course, today texting isn’t the only thing people do on their phones. They go on Facebook, write tweets and even watch videos. Sometimes while driving. I actually remember a law enforcement activity in Boston where officers on bicycles would ride up to stopped motorists at stop lights and catch them on their phones.

“You were watching a video on your phone?” – the officer 

“Um yea.” – driver 

<Hands over ticket >

Watching videos is now no longer allowed in Iowa as well while you’re driving. But you can still make phone calls and use your phone as a GPS device.

I hardly ever make phone calls to begin with but I am very happy that I can use my phone as a GPS device because how else will I ever find where I’m going?

I did ask Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner his opinion on the law and here’s what he had to say:

“While the new law takes steps in the right direction toward enhancing motorist safety, it may be somewhat difficult to enforce. An officer would have to be able to prove that the driver was performing an illegal activity with the phone, as opposed to making a phone call, looking through their phone directory, or using the GPS function, all of which are still legal under the new law.”

I totally agree with the sheriff here and the other thing that crossed my mind and which really prompted me to want to write about this is that all the things that are illegal on the phone are not illegal on your smart watch.

So looking at my Apple Watch – let’s say  a teeet -is not illegal. But the same action on my phone if I would pick it up would be illegal.

I’m not a lawyer so if you get pulled over you can’t say “but Christoph’s blog said this.” FYI! ? But that’s at the very least my understanding of the law.

Really what it comes down to is that any laws and policies that relate to technology and social media need to be broader. For example, I remember companies and clients many years ago come up with social media policies that would specifically call out networks.

For example: “we would not recommend befriending coworkers on MySpace.”

And then of course MySpace is now only being used by musicians. Those same hyper specific social media policies would of course not account for new developments like Periscope, Snapchat and Instagram-just to give some examples. 

So my recommendation to clients when they do social media policies is to keep it rather broad but be crystal clear with their intent. The intent is to help you share better stories or to make sure you don’t share confidential information or whatever it might be.

The intent of these driving laws of course is to keep drivers and passengers safer. I would think! And using devices can cause accidents when we are distracted. But you can also get distracted by changing your radio station and not looking at the road or arguing with your spouse or yelling at your kids in the backseat. Certainly I’m not going to advocate to make all those things illegal but what if laws actually focus more on the intent of what they’re trying to accomplish? 

So let me assume the law’s intent is to stop people being distracted. So if you draw attention to yourself by crossing over the line, waiting at the stop light that just turned green for 10 seconds before you go or whatever other sign people exhibit when they’re distracted, you can get pulled over by law-enforcement and get a ticket for distracted driving.

It’s very similar to what I recommend to clients as they draw up new policies or update existing ones. 

Technology and really all digital communications and marketing just change too quickly to be super specific on things like this. 

As a final note, please be safe out there and don’t be distracted while driving. 

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