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Authorities Remind Motorists Of July First Changes In Law

By Staff | Jun 8, 2010

Motorists in the area and across the state are being reminded of some changes to laws governing drivers that will go into effect on July 1. Both the Emmetsburg Police Department and the Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office are reminding motorists that the new laws will affect every driver and most passengers in some way.

There are a couple of major changes that go into effect on July 1, with one of those changes applying to the use of cell phones by drivers. Of special importance is a regulation that applies to drivers under the age of 18 and the use of cell phones.

Any driver holding an instructional permit or intermediate drivers’ license, between the ages of 14 and 18, cannot use an electronic communication device, or electronic entertainment device while driving a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is at a complete stop, off the traveled portion of a roadway. This restriction also applies to drivers holding school permits as well. The new law is cited in the Iowa Code, Chapter 321.180B(6A) section 321.194.

The regulation does not apply to electronic equipment, which is permanently installed in the vehicle, or equipment that is operated through permanently installed equipment in the vehicle.

During the first year of the new regulations, peace officers will issue warning citations for any violations of the law, but after the grace period, the violation will be a simple misdemeanor, and punishable by a $30 scheduled violation. Peace officers will also be able to stop a vehicle on the basis of their observations of a violation of the law.

For drivers holding a full license, the use of a hand-held cell phone to read, write or send text messages while driving is prohibited unless the vehicle is at a complete stop off the traveled portion of the roadway, in accordance with the Iowa Code, Chapter 321.276.

This new regulation does not apply to the use of GPS devices, or a hand-held device when the person selects or enters a telephone number or name, or activates or deactivates or initiates a function of a hand-held mobile telephone. These restrictions do not apply to hands-free or voice-activated devices.

Violations are also a simple misdemeanor, punishable by a scheduled fine of $30. This law is also designed with a one-year grace period for full enforcement.

Officers may not stop or detain individuals for a suspected violation of this section of code, but they may use this section as a secondary action if the driver has been stopped for other reasons.

The other major change in Iowa Law applies to the use of seat belt restraints on children in motor vehicles. Previously, only front seat occupants had to be restrained, but from July 1 onward, all individuals under the age of 18 anywhere in the vehicle must wear a “properly adjusted and fastened safety belt or harness” unless they are in a secure child restraint seat or system. In short, if an occupant of a vehicle is under the age of 18, they must wear a seat belt or be in a child seat.

Violations of this law are a simple misdemeanor, punishable by a scheduled violation under section 805.8A.

“We realize that some of these changes are going to be difficult to adjust to right away,” noted Lt. Lynn Schultes of the Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office, “But the ultimate goal of these regulations is to reduce accidents and injuries to all age groups.”

Anyone with questions on the extent of the new laws or enforcement is urged to contact their local law enforcement agency or contact the Emmetsburg Police Department at 712-852-2424, or the Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office at 712-852-3535.