Cedar County teen's death linked to texting and driving - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cedar County teen's death linked to texting and driving

DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- The Iowa State Highway Patrol released information linking a Cedar County teen's death to texting and driving.

The teen's fatal single-vehicle car crash came on July 5, just four days after the new texting ban took effect.

The crash happened in the 1800 block of Yankee Avenue near Durant.

The crash threw 17-year-old Jennifer Flockhart of Mechanicsville from her car when it rolled.

Officials say they found something telling next to her body.

"Next to the victim was a cell phone," Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Jose Varela said. "When the officers were investigating that, they found on the cell phone a text that was partially-completed in that time frame and hadn't been sent yet. It leads you to the conclusion that that person was distracted because they were texting and driving at the same time."

Many unanswered questions surround the enforcement of the new law. For example, drivers 17 and under cannot legally text or talk on the phone, but how can law enforcement tell whether a driver is 17 or 18 just by looking at them? What about whether an adult is texting or just dialing a phone number?

"Usually, if a person is truly distracted by what they're doing, there's going to be enough other violations," such as swerving or speeding, Varela said.

In regards to crossing state lines into Iowa, drivers at one gas station near the Iowa-Wisconsin border said prominent signs would help.

"Definitely a humongous sign," interstate commuter Elliott Johnson said. 'I mean, like, it says Welcome to Iowa, maybe you let them know, hey, there's a ban here, too"

"Announcements on radio and TV," Wisconsin resident Kent Mattoon said. "Maybe some signs at the border, where we cross."

The Iowa Department of Transportation said it will start putting signs and brochures up in Iowa rest stops, once they are manufactured, to alert both Iowans and out-of-state drivers to the new law.

The new law, which went into effect July 1, bans texting for drivers of all ages. Drivers under the age of 18, however, are also banned from talking on the cell phone while driving, as well as using certain electronic devices such as an iPod touch.

In this first year, drivers will only get a warning for breaking the law. Law enforcement will start writing citations in July of 2010.

Online Reporter Becca Habegger

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