Police officers in Iowa will soon have one less distraction while driving — the Iowa Department of Transportation is deploying a new technology that will disable the in-vehicle laptops every DOT motor vehicle enforcement (MVE) officer has in his or her vehicle when the vehicle reaches a pre-determined speed.
The system, “Arch Angel” is a combination of hardware and software that disables the laptop computer in the law enforcement vehicle when the vehicle reaches or exceeds 15 mph. It does so by constantly monitoring the speed of the vehicle.
When the speed reaches 15 mph, the software automatically disables or locks the laptop computer, keyboard, mouse, and touch screen. While the computer is locked, critical applications continue to run, ensuring that the physical location of the officer continues to be sent to other law enforcement officers so situational awareness is maintained. The officer is able to use one keystroke to call for help if necessary. In addition, the officer can view a statewide map showing the location of the emergency they are responding to and the position of other law enforcement officers in the area. Once the vehicle’s speed falls below 15 mph, the computer becomes active again.
MVE Chief Dave Lorenzen stated that the law enforcement agency should not only enforce distracted driving laws, but also be part of the solution when it comes to distracted driving.
The Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement anticipates software installation and training will be completed and the system will be in use by Nov. 1.
Iowa has a distracted driving law that makes it illegal for drivers to text while driving, but does not have a ban on hand-held devices, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. There is a texting exception for public safety agency employees performing official duties.