Linn County Sheriff Bruce Riley reports that on October 1, the new distracted driving laws go into effect. This new law corrects some of the language that prohibited drivers from texting or making phone calls, but not from scrolling through social media sites or checking emails. The law also increases the penalties for cell-phone use.

There are some exceptions to the law:

  • When using hands-free or built-in devices, if 18 years of age or older.
  • Use of a single touch or swipe to activate or deactivate the device or a function.
  • While providing or summoning medical help and no one else is available to make the call.
  • When parked safely, i.e., stopped at the side of the road or in a designated parking spot.  It is NOT legal to use the device when stopped at a stop light, stop sign, in traffic, etc.
  • Truck or bus drivers following the federal rules for CDL holders.
  • Using a two-way radio: CB users, school bus drivers, utility truck drivers in the scope of employment.
  • Ambulance or emergency vehicle operators in the scope of employment.
  • Police, fire, EMS providers in the scope of employment, (can include when in a personal vehicle if, for example, when responding to an emergency call).
  • HAM radio operators, age 18 years or older.

The law allows a driver to use their cell-phone with a hands-free accessory, as long as it allows the driver to keep both hands on the steering wheel.

Through this law, the fines were also increased for repeat offenders. The first offense within a ten-year period, not contributing to a crash is a Class B violation…the minimum fine is $130.00.  The second offense or if the use contributes to an accident is a Class A violation…the minimum fine being $220.00.

The significant increase in penalty comes on the third offense within ten years, which is now a Class B misdemeanor. This carries a minimum mandatory fine of $2,000, and the possibility of serving six months in jail.

The National Traffic Safety Administration shows that 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted driving in 2015 alone.

Sheriff Riley and his deputies are committed to the safety of all those driving through Linn County. He would like to remind drivers that the Linn County Sheriff’s Office has a “no tolerance” policy for violating these laws and citations will be issued.