Extra enforcement on the roads this holiday weekend

New texting and driving law in effect now


The July 4th holiday weekend is here and like many other holidays, this leads to an increased number of vehicles on local and stateway roadways.

But local law enforcement officials say too many of those drivers will make the choice to drive distracted or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

According to Iowa DOT crash statistics, the July 4 holiday period (July 2-6) resulted in five fatality crashes in Iowa in both 2015 and 2016. In 2015, three of those five crashes involved impaired drivers, and four out of five in 2016 were impaired. Officials said those who are planning on celebrating with alcohol should make arrangements to utilize a designated driver or taxi.

The Marshall County Sheriff’s Office and the Marshalltown Police Department will be joining other agencies across Iowa and the Midwest to provide extra traffic enforcement focused on detecting and apprehending impaired drivers. While impaired driving is the focus of the increased patrols, other dangerous driving behaviors such as speeding, unbuckled occupants, and distracted driving will also be addressed and enforced.

Meanwhile, beginning today, Iowa’s new texting and driving law takes effect. While most people understand that this bill addresses texting and driving, many do not realize that the new law does not only address text messages on phones.

Sgt. Ben Veren with the sheriff’s office said the law states that “A person shall not use a hand-held electronic communication device to write, send, or view an electronic message while driving a motor vehicle unless the motor vehicle is at a complete stop off the traveled portion of the roadway.”

Veren said it’s important to note according to the definitions in the law that electronic message includes “images visible on the screen of a hand-held electronic communication device including a text-based message, an instant message, a portion of electronic mail, an internet site, a social media application, or a game.”

With the previous law, this was a secondary offense which means that officers could not stop violators for that violation alone. However, now the new law makes this violation a primary offense that officers can stop and enforce for that violation alone. Veren said with distracted driving becoming an epidemic that is leading to more crashes and injuries, drivers should expect this law to be strictly enforced.