By the end of this week new rules take effect in Iowa, Idaho and West Virginia to help protect emergency personnel and reduce distracted driving.
A new law in Iowa covers the state’s requirement that travelers make way for vehicles, typically emergency personnel, during roadside stops.
According to AAA, 49 states have implemented similar safety zone rules. Hawaii lawmakers have sent a bill to the governor’s desk to end the state’s distinction as the lone holdout.
Iowa’s three-year-old law requires drivers to change lanes or slow down when approaching emergency, tow or maintenance vehicles stopped along the roadside with lights flashing. Violators face $100 fines.
Effective Sunday, July 1, violators will face increased penalties if failure to abide by the rule results in property damage or injury to others. Specifically, incidents that result in injury or death would result in fines of $500 or $1,000, respectively.
Mandatory suspension of driving privileges will also be required. Loss of driving privileges for such offenses could last between 90 days and one year.
To avoid potential problems, the Iowa Department of Transportation recommends that travelers change lanes or slow down anytime you are approaching a vehicle that is slow moving, stopped or stranded on the shoulder, if it is safe to do so.
Two new laws in Idaho and West Virginia also address road safety concerns.
The National Safety Council says driver distractions, as well as alcohol and speeding, are leading factors in serious injury crashes. The council estimates that 28 percent of all traffic crashes – or at least 1.6 million crashes – each year are caused by drivers using cellphones. An additional 200,000 crashes annually involve drivers who are texting.
In response to safety concerns, a total of 37 states have acted to outlaw the distracted driving practice in recent years. Idaho and West Virginia are the latest states to prohibit drivers from text messaging while at the wheel.
Effective July 1, law enforcement in both states can enforce the bans as a primary offense, meaning drivers could be cited solely for violating the rule.
The Idaho law specifies that tickets can be handed out to anyone caught reviewing, preparing or sending text messages while driving. Violators would face $85 fines.
Emergency personnel and law enforcement are included.
In West Virginia, offenders would face fines that start at $100. Three points would be added to driver’s licenses after their third citation.
The Mountain State’s new rule includes a restriction on talking while driving. In addition to the texting rule, chatting with a hand-held device is a secondary offense. As a result, officers couldn’t cite offenders without pulling them over for a separate violation.
However, the restriction on enforcement is only temporary. The cellphone rule is slated to become a primary offense in July 2013.