Iowa’s Cellphone-Use and Texting-While-Driving Laws

Read about Iowa’s distracted driving laws and the costs of a violation.

Iowa’s distracted driving law generally bans all text and electronic messaging while driving. But for most drivers, there aren’t any restrictions on talking on the phone while driving.

Here’s an overview of what Iowa’s distracted driving law prohibits and the penalties you’ll face for a violation.

Texting and Electronic Messaging

Iowa’s distracted driving law prohibits motorists from using a hand-held electronic communication device to write, send, or view an electronic message while driving.

Hand-held electronic devices. The distracted driving law defines “hand-held electronic communication device” as a cellphone or other electronic device that is capable of being used to write, send, or view an electronic message. This definition doesn’t include voice-operated and hands-free devices that don’t require the use of a hand except to activate or deactivate a feature or function. And using a GPS or navigation device does not constitute a violation of the distracted driving law.

Electronic messages. The term “electronic message” includes text-based communications, images, instant messages, emails, Internet sites, social media applications, and games.

Exceptions. Iowa’s distracted driving law contains exceptions for:

  • members of public safety agencies performing official duties
  • healthcare professionals in the course of emergency situations, and
  • persons receiving safety-related information including emergency, traffic, and weather alerts.

Talking on the Phone

Iowa law permits most motorists to make and receive calls and talk on the phone while driving. However, drivers who are using an instruction permit or intermediate driver’s license (typically, drivers under the age of 18) are generally prohibited from all electronic device use while driving, including calls. The only exception is for devices that are permanently installed in the vehicle or operated through permanently installed equipment.

Enforcement and Penalties

Standard violations. Distracted driving is considered a “primary” traffic offense—meaning an officer can pull over for a violation. Distracted driving is a simple misdemeanor. A conviction generally costs the driver $100.50 in fines and surcharges. However, distracted driving isn’t considered a moving violation and won’t add demerit points to the motorist’s driving record.

Violations involving injuries. A driver who causes “serious injury” to another person while violating the distracted driving law faces a $500 fine (plus surcharges) and/or a license suspension of up to 90 days.

Violations involving deaths. A driver who causes the death of another person while violating the distracted driving law faces a $1,000 fine (plus surcharges) and/or a license suspension of up to 180 days. Depending on the circumstances, the driver might also be looking at “homicide-by-vehicle” charges.

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