New texting law to impact Dubuque ordinance - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

New texting law to impact Dubuque ordinance

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- We've been talking about it for weeks now. And today Governor Chet Culver signed a law banning texting while driving. The law restricts drivers from reading, writing or sending messages. Those under the age of 18 will be banned from even talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel. The City of Dubuque already passed an ordinance banning texting and talking on the phone while driving but the new state law will trump Dubuque's law.

For almost two months now driver in Dubuque have been kicking the habit of using a cell phone while driving.

"Whether you're talking, texting, cell phone near your face, it didn't matter you were still in a violation of law," said Lt. Scott Baxter with the Dubuque Police Department.

Dubuque set a precedent for the state when the city council passed the cell phone ordinance. But Thursday Iowa Governor Chet Culver signed a law that will trump Dubuque's current law.

"Once you get used to it it's kinda like second nature, like putting your seatbelt on," said Baxter.

The law prohibits adult drivers from reading, writing and sending a text while behind the wheel. But they can talk on their phones, something Dubuque's ordinance prohibits. But the new law doesn't allow minors to use a cell phone or any other hand held electronics. This will change how Dubuque police enforce.

"If we have to try and differentiated between a 17 year old and an 18 year old. Whether an adult with a regular license is actually texting of typing a number to make that phone call. You can see the enforcement challenges right there," said Baxter.

Either way, for now the city plans to enforce the ordinance as they have been, come July first drivers can talk on their phones again. But Dubuque police hope new habits carry over.

"It still remains very unsafe, regardless of what the laws say. We hope people here in Dubuque realize that is it safer to use hands free devices and kinda stuck with our ordinance even if it isn't in effect," said Baxter.

Officials say the signs outside Dubuque city limits, currently warning drivers of the cell phone ordinance, will probably remain since the new law still bans texting and driving.

Government studies have found that drivers take their eyes off the road for nearly 5 seconds out of every 6 seconds while texting.

Online Reporter: Lauren Squires

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