Doug Clough is giving up bicycling on Iowa county roads, so these days he is only churning miles on recreational trails that don't put him in proximity with two-ton steel vehicles hurtling by at 55 mph or more.

It is a change, Clough, 52, of Ida Grove, Iowa, didn't want to make. He has enjoyed biking on roads since embracing the sport back in his teens when growing up in Des Moines. But Clough said the majority of people he's seen recently are breaking the law by using smart phones to check messages and similar technological tasks while driving.

"Every other person is looking at their cell phone. I sense my mortality. But I am just not going to die on a county road," Clough said.

He thought about the percentage of drivers he sees near Ida Grove who are juggling smart phone tasks. He contended it is no hyperbole to say the number is 80 percent.

Iowa law on use of mobile devices while driving changes is strengthened next week. Drivers still will be able to use hand-held devices to make phone calls or check GPS directions. But beginning July 1, they can be pulled over by police and face a $30 fine, plus court costs, for using devices to write, send or view an electronic message.

In signing the bill in April, then-Gov. Terry Branstad said he was disappointed the Legislature did not adopt an outright ban on using hand-held devices while driving. During the legislative debate, proponents called it a bad idea to take your eyes off the road and hands off the wheel while driving, but applauded the incremental progress after Iowa’s traffic deaths rose from a five-year low of 317 in 2013 to 403 in 2016.

Scott Sumpter, of Ankeny, founder of the Bike Iowa organization, said many bicyclists throughout the state are concerned about the number of people struck by vehicles and injured or killed on roads. Sumpter and Clough said they know people who choose to only use trails now, for fear of being struck by a vehicle.

"You don't see a lot of people cycling on roads over here, and that's because everybody's had their brush-by (near collision)," Clough said.

John Gray, an avid cyclist from Sioux City, said he bikes on a mixture of roads and trails. But Gray said he knows several friends who now only feel comfortable when biking on trails away from traffic.

Sumpter said there are already many distractions to drivers, such a eating, while motoring on roads with bicyclists, so the rise of technological devices in vehicles is a bad trend for safety.

"It is more dangerous from the devices," Sumpter said.

The number of Iowa bicycle fatalities from people being struck by vehicles was seven in 2014, three in 2015 and seven in 2016, although a few other died in other ways while biking.

"It would be a heck of a lot higher without trails," Sumpter said.

Sumpter cited the number of bicyclists struck by vehicles at 319 in 2014 and 408 in 2015, while adding the number of bicyclists who get struck is under-reported to law enforcement officials.

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