DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa State Patrol has responded to a new texting-while-driving law by issuing 230 tickets in the past two months, far more than troopers issued all last year.

Troopers issued less than 175 tickets for texting in 2016, The Des Moines Register reported .

The new law, which took effect July 1, lets officers issue citations if they observe a motorist texting while driving. The previous law only allowed motorists to be ticketed for texting if they also committed another traffic offense.

Officers are using unmarked vehicles and plain-clothed troopers to catch motorists, but it can still be difficult for them to spot violations, said Maj. Randy Kunert, who heads the state patrol’s field operations.

“The districts reported success in finding some violations, but indicated it is still a hard violation to detect,” he said. “It is very personnel intensive and often only one or two traffic stops were made per hour.”

Sen. Tim Kapucian, R-Keystone said the enforcement efforts send a strong message to the community that texting while driving isn’t acceptable.

“You know, the word gets out and people will say, ‘Hey, I got a ticket for texting while driving,’ and that is going to reverberate with folks,” Kapucian said.

Texting while driving increases the risk of crashing more than 20 times when compared to driving while not distracted, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The fine for texting while driving is $30, but court costs bring the total cost to about $100, according to the Legislative Services Agency.

Forty-seven states prohibit texting while driving and 15 ban drivers from using hand-held cellphones altogether, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.


Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com