Hundreds of Distracted Drivers Crashing into Utility Equipment; New Law Cracks Down

Jul 10, 2017

Iowa motorists are being warned of possible penalties under a new state law designed to protect utility crews working along Iowa roadways.  

The electric utilities of Iowa have launched a Move Over Slow Down campaign to promote the law, which requires drivers to either change lanes or reduce their speed when passing utility vehicles.

There are more distracted drivers on the roads today. -Alliant Energy Lineman Corey Birkel

The original law was enacted in 2002 covering emergency vehicles with flashing lights. It was revised this year to include utility crews.

Officials say drivers are speeding by much too close to the workers. 

“Our crews set up bright orange cones, signs, a bright orange truck, flashing lights,” said John Dvorak with the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives.  “People still didn't give them room on the road to do their work.”

While there have been no fatal accidents, officials with MidAmerican Energy report that as many as 500 pieces of equipment, including utility poles,  have been struck by passing motorists so far this year. 

Promotional Poster for Move Over Slow Down Campaign
Credit Joyce Russell/IPR

One lineworker says he’s more concerned about passing drivers than the high-voltage lines he's fixing.

It's not just a courtesy. It's the law. -Gov. Kim Reynolds

“There are more distracted drivers on the roads today,” said Corey Birkel with Alliant Energy in  Dubuque.  “Even when we put our orange cones out and put on our flashing lights, they don't always see us or change the way they drive.”

The law provides for penalties for drivers who do not either change lanes or slow down when passing utility crews.  

A new website encourages compliance by inviting motorists to pledge to follow the law.  

“It’s not just a courtesy,” said Gov. Kim Reynolds at a statehouse news conference as she signed the pledge. “It’s the law.”

Note:  An earlier version of this story quoted a MidAmerican Energy spokesman saying that 500 vehicles were struck by motorists.    A spokesman later clarified that it was 500 pieces of equipment, including utility poles, that were struck by motorists.