Opinion: A distracted driver killed my children. The Iowa Legislature can save yours.

Opinion: A distracted driver killed my children. The Iowa Legislature can save yours.

On Thanksgiving weekend 2010, my entire world was destroyed in a matter of seconds. I was driving home from a family get together with my sons, Alex, 4 and Maliki, 5. We had planned to put the Christmas tree up when we got back to the house. Instead, as we crested the hill on a two-lane highway in Red Oak, a texting driver hit our car head on. I was pinned in the vehicle, forced to sit helplessly while emergency medical crews covered the bodies of my boys in the back seat with sheets. I remember screaming at my sons, trying to get them to wake up, trying to get them to move. I was stuck, helpless, unable to do anything for them. I felt like I failed my children, because I couldn’t protect them.

Today, I am once again screaming, refusing to be stuck again. But this time I am screaming not to save my children, but to save yours. We need the Iowa Legislature to help end these preventable distracted driving deaths. Because this time, we are not helpless, we know how to protect everyone on the road.

It’s time to make our state a #HandsFreeIowa.

The Iowa House and Senate both have bills ready for floor votes right now that would make us the 25th hands-free state in the nation. Nine states have enacted similar laws just over the past two years. Why? Because they work. Data shows that once they go into effect, drivers spend substantially less time typing and swiping on their phones. In those same states, crashes and fatalities are going down — some to their lowest levels in a decade. This legislation is saving lives all over the country, and it’s time to do the same in Iowa. 

Most existing texting laws arealready unenforceable and obsolete because technology moves too fast for us to keep up. Today drivers are using their phones to live stream and undertake countless other dangerous activities. That is why we need a clear, simple law: if you are driving with a phone in your hand, you are in violation.This common-sense solution would make it easier for the public to understand the dangers of distracted driving and for law enforcement to keep Iowans safe, regardless of whatever new technology keeps drivers’ eyes off the road. Iowa’s bill is just that simple; you must use your electronic device in a hands-free mode while driving or you are violating the law.

Polls consistently show that Americans overwhelmingly support distracted driving laws because we know they aren’t meant to take away our rights. It’s a proven way to save lives. You could still use your phone via hands-free technology and use GPS to help you navigate. Rather, it would prohibit behavior we all know is dangerous for ourselves and everyone else on the road, like texting, watching YouTube, streaming Netflix, checking Facebook, etc.

It’s time to end the epidemic of distracted driving and change the culture behind this deadly behavior before it hurts more Iowa families. It is no longer acceptable for us to continue to ignore this problem when we know the solution. Education and personal responsibility alone are not enough — we have tried that in the decade since my boys were killed, and it is only getting worse. We need this law. I’m asking Iowans to call their legislators now and express support for a #HandsFreeIowa, for their own safety and that of their families. #ItsTime. Our lawmakers have the power to pass this life-saving legislation and immediately make our roads safer.

Nothing will bring my boys back to me, but if this legislation can save other parents the pain of burying their own children, I owe it to them to protect you.

Nina Todd lost both of her sons and suffered a disabling injury in a car crash with a distracted driver in 2010. She lives in Shenandoah and is an active member of stopdistractions.org, a grassroots organization dedicated to passing distracted driving legislation.

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