Washington couple urges state legislature to pass ‘hands-free’ cell phone law

DES MOINES, Iowa (KCCI) – A Washington couple is urging the state legislature to pass a “hands-free” cell phone law after their daughter was killed by a distracted driver in 2020.

Ellen Bengtson was riding her bicycle outside of Charles City, when she was hit and killed.

The suspect in the case was charged with reckless homicide by vehicle.

The charges were dropped in part because of Iowa’s current texting while driving law.

Court records show the driver admitted he looked at his phone, but the current law requires the physical act of opening a notification instead of just passively viewing one.

Now, Bengtson’s family is pushing lawmakers to strengthen the law.

“Anything that we can do won’t bring our daughter back. But we don’t want other families to go through what we’re going through,” Ellen’s mother Joann Bengston said. “As any grieving parent would know, with time you get out of bed in the morning, and you find joy in life. But there’s a hole. There’s always a hole. And it’s tragic.”

The bill, SF 60, would make all cell phone use that is not hands-free illegal while driving. It was introduced last Thursday and referred to a Senate subcommittee.


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