Kimberly Center students pitch ‘hands-free’ driving bill

2013-03-18T00:04:00Z 2013-03-18T09:07:10Z Kimberly Center students pitch ‘hands-free’ driving billTara Becker The Quad-City Times
March 18, 2013 12:04 am  • 

Eating a cheeseburger.

Putting on lipstick.

Watching Netflix.

Those are just some of the many ways motorists can be distracted.

One distraction that’s probably the most common is chatting on a cellphone or texting.

Both have been compared to driving while intoxicated.

Although Iowa already bans texting while driving, some students at the Davenport Community School District’s Kimberly Center for Alternative Education are taking it a step further in an effort to keep the roads safe.

Junior Cecilia Maresca, 17, a member of the school’s Iowa Youth Congress delegation, has crafted the “Hands on the Wheel” bill that would ban motorists from talking on a cellphone without a hands-free device.

“Basically, we’re trying to keep hands on the wheel at all times,” she said. “You can use a Bluetooth (hands-free device) while you’re talking on the phone, but you can’t use your cellphone other than that.”

The bill also proposes issuing a fine of $30 or more depending on whether the distracted driving leads to a crash, serious injury or death.

Maresca said she was inspired to write the bill after she and her grandfather were almost blindsided by a truck driver who was talking on his cellphone.

“(This bill) really meant a lot to me, and I figured if I could get this bill passed, I will be one of the people who helped save lives,” Maresca said. “I think that’s pretty cool.”

Maresca took her bill in front of the 2012 Iowa Youth Congress, which invited 100 minority students statewide to the Iowa House chambers in Des Moines for a “mock” General Assembly in November.

She was joined by fellow Kimberly Center students Izzy Parker-Tatum, Lashawnda Wiggins and Autumn Torres.

Parker-Tatum said she thought the bill was a great idea.

“That’s one of the biggest causes (of accidents) I’ve seen personally,” she said.

During the three-day conference, the students held elections and debated and passed three bills. Unfortunately, Maresca’s bill didn’t get passed by the young legislators, she said.

The group decided to take the bill to the next level and approached Rep. Phyllis Thede, D-Bettendorf, whose husband, Dave, oversees the student delegates.

Thede said she has worked with the Iowa Youth Congress before and guides students though the bill-writing process. Dave Thede also has been involved in the program for several years.

Thede, who said she was impressed with the student’s bill, helped them do more research and looked at a similar law in California. She said it took about a month to get the bill drafted.

The bill, also sponsored by Reps. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines, and Curt Hanson, D-Fairfield, has been referred to the House Transportation Committee for review.

Thede said bills that are not worked on “way before session starts” are less likely to be introduced. If the bill doesn’t make it this year, she said, they can try again next year.

“If it doesn’t do it this year, we’ll just keep presenting it and presenting it, and we’ll get more feedback,” Thede said.

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