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Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system—anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving. You cannot Distracted Driving Logo
drive safely unless the task of driving has your full attention. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing


With more portable technology now than ever, driver distractions have risen to unprecedented numbers. We live in a world where people expect instant, real-time information 24 hours-a-day and those desires do not stop just because people get behind the wheel. Drivers simply do not realize the dangers that are posed when they take their eyes and minds off the road and their hands off the wheel and focus on activities other than driving.


Effective July 1, 2017, Iowa’s distracted driving law became a primary law meaning a law enforcement officer can stop any driver who is texting (reading, writing, or sending)  or using any other portable electronic device, unless the motor vehicle is at a complete stop and off the traveled portion of the roadway.  Previously, drivers eighteen years or older had to be breaking another traffic law before they could be stopped by a law enforcement officer. 

Drivers under the age of eighteen years are prohibited from using electronic devices entirely, unless the vehicle is stopped and off the traveled portion of the roadway or the device is permanently installed in the vehicle or operated through permanently installed equipment. 

Drivers over the age of eighteen may use their phones to talk while driving and as a GPS navigation system.

Also effective July 1, 2017, a driver using a cellphone and causing the death of another person has shown evidence of reckless driving and could face a felony conviction that includes up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. 

The provision related to "reading" a text message does not apply to the following:

  • A member of a public safety agency performing official duties;
  • Health care professionals in the course of an emergency situation; or
  • A person receiving safety-related information, including emergency, traffic or weather alerts.

Drivers Simply Can't Do 2 Things At Once

  • Drivers who use hand-held devices while driving are 4 times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves or others.
  • Ten percent of fatal crashes, 15 percent of injury crashes, and 14 percent of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2015 were reported as distraction-affected crashes.  It is generally believed these numbers are underreported.
  • Texting is the most alarming distraction.  Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds.  At 55 mph, that is like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.
  • In a recent NHTSA survey, most individuals (77%) reported that they talk on the phone while driving at least some of the time.
  • In 2015 there were 551 non-occupants (pedestrians, bicyclists, and others) killed in distraction affected crashes.

Young Drivers Are Especially At Risk

  • Younger, inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes. Their lack of driving experience can contribute to critical misjudgments if they become distracted.
  • Not surprisingly, they text more than any other age group and the numbers of young drivers who text is only increasing. It's a trend that poses a growing danger, so it's important to address this issue now.
  • Parents need to set a good example for their children and show them from an early age that it is just not safe to text and/or talk on their phone while driving.

Everyone Is Part Of The Solution

"Put It Down" is a broad, public-private partnership of community and health groups, safety advocates, businesses, law enforcement, legislators, public officials, concerned citizens and those who have lost loved ones because of a distracted driver. These partners realize that eliminating distractions while driving will save lives and reduce costs associated with crashes caused by distracted drivers. And because everyone is potentially affected when drivers are distracted, everyone must be part of the solution. For more information, please visit

When You’re Texting,
       You’re Not Driving

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Created: 02-07-2006
Last Updated: 03-14-2011 (JLR)
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