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Should troopers make stops for drivers texting?
Italy had an interesting fashion trend a number of years ago.
The most popular men’s shirts all seemed to have something in common, a broad black stripe extending from the left shoulder to the right hip.
It really wasn’t a fashion statement; purchasing the shirt was an act of civil defiance, striking a blow against interference with personal freedom.
Italian authorities, it seems, made not wearing a seatbelt what American jurisdictions call a primary offense.
If the sharp-eyed polizia noticed you weren’t wearing a seatbelt, they could stop you and issue a ticket.
Thus the sartorial camouflage.
Texting while driving became against the law in both Iowa and Nebraska in 2010, but last year, the Hawkeye State went one farther, making it a primary offense, giving officers authority to stop drivers they suspected of texting.
Naturally, the Iowa State Patrol announced that texting citations had increased by 620 percent in the year since the law went into effect. Nebraska State Patrol’s numbers declined by about 50 percent over the same period. Were westbound drivers being trained by Iowa cops? Maybe.
Iowa outlawed social media, games and internet surfing at the same time it banned texting, but wisely, does allow smartphones to be used for navigation and safety alerts.
Civil libertarians oppose broadened police powers, and worry that racial profiling might be involved.
While they also argue that Iowa’s law is “problematic” and “ineffective,” crashes linked to electronic devices so far this year, were down, with 486 reported between January and June compared to 575 in the first six months of 2017, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation.
Law enforcement overreach is always a concern, but we’re concerned as well when we see a driver navigating snow-covered, icy McCook streets while texting.
Modern cars are full of electronic distractions, and even older cars are dangerous when drivers are distracted by their smartphones. It’s time to add texting to the list of primary offenses.
What do you think? Join in the conversation by voting here.