Indiana legislators seem poised to join 21 other states in making it illegal to hold a cell phone while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
House Bill 1070, which would prohibit holding a cell phone while driving, was approved by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Transportation in mid-February. The bill is now headed to the full Senate. If it passes there, it will be returned to the House to approve the minor changes made in the Senate.
The bill is intended to crack down on distracted driving in the state, according to RTV 6 in Indianapolis. Drivers could still use Bluetooth or a speak on speakerphone while driving, as long as the phone isn’t in their hand.
Indiana law currently prohibits texting while driving. But police say that law is essentially unenforceable. It prohibits texting but doesn’t address other uses of a phone behind the wheel, like tweeting or watching videos.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 21 states have hands-free laws, including Tennessee and Illinois. All are primary enforcement laws, meaning police may cite a driver for using a handheld cellphone without any other traffic offense taking place. Indiana’s law would be a primary enforcement law, as well.
Dangers of Texting and Driving in Indiana
Distracted driving is any type of non-driving activity that a motorist engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the task of driving. There are three types of distracted driving:
- Cognitive distractions take your mind off the road.
- Visual distractions take your eyes off the road.
- Manual distractions take your hands off the wheel.
Texting while driving is a triple-threat, requiring cognitive, visual and manual attention that should be focused on driving tasks.
Indiana State Police Supt. Doug Carter told legislators that there were 48 fatal crashes, 860 personal injury crashes and 2,905 property-damage-only crashes related to distracted driving in Indiana in 2019.
There are now more crashes related to texting and driving than drinking and driving, according to the Indiana Department of Labor. Studies have found that a driver’s reaction time will be about 30 percent worse when trying to text and drive. Texting drivers spend an average of 10 percent of their time outside their traffic lane.
People who text while driving are 23 times more likely to crash.
Other distracted driving activity that has led to crashes in Indiana includes:
- Talking to passengers
- Grooming (applying makeup, brushing hair, flossing, etc.)
- Using other electronics, such as a navigation system (GPS)
- Watching videos
- Changing music (MP3 players, CDs, radio).
Tips to Avoid Being Distracted While Driving
Even state’s Police Supt. Doug Carter admits to succumbing to the temptation of picking up a cellphone while behind the wheel.
“I’m going to tell you — I’m guilty,” Carter said, putting his hand in the air as he addressed legislators. “I am really guilty. Immediate communication is so important to all of us. And I’m working at it. Eventually, I’m going to put my phone in my darn trunk. But right now, I’m really working at not using it because it’s so dangerous.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in January 2019, “Passenger vehicle driver handheld cell phone use decreased from 3.3 percent in 2016 to 2.9 percent in 2017, a statistically significant decrease.” Use peaked at 6.2 percent in 2007.
- Consider your phone to be an emergency device only. Drive time is not time to carry on social conversations, play games, surf the web or watch videos. Only use your phone in a car for essential communications and do so only after pulling off the road and stopping to complete a call or text exchange.
- Make all preparations for driving before starting. Eat, dress and groom yourself before leaving your home. Decide on your route and check traffic conditions before leaving home. Adjust seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems, and set GPS mapping systems before moving your vehicle.
- Limit potential in-car distractions. Store loose possessions, gear, cargo or anything that could roll around on a seat or floorboard and cause a distraction. Secure children and pets before getting underway. Limit the number of passengers in your car if possible. Most states’ graduated driver licensing laws, including Indiana’s, prohibit teens from having teenage passengers in the car with them during their early months of driving solo to avoid the distraction.
- Stop and deal with it safely. As a general rule, if you cannot devote your full attention to driving because of some other activity, it’s a distraction. If you are already underway, stop some place safe and take care of whatever pressing need you have. It’s time well-spent. Don’t try to multi-task behind the wheel. Something always suffers. Focus on the road and the drivers around you.
Contact a Distracted Driving Lawyer in Indianapolis
Unfortunately, distracted driving continues to cause injuries and fatalities in Indiana. Even a new law, if enacted, won’t entirely eliminate the problem. If you or a family member has been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, a distracted driving accident lawyer from Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC can help. We help injured people obtain compensation from negligent and reckless drivers who cause accidents and injury.
Our assistance starts with a free, no-obligation legal consultation about your options for a claim after a distracted driving accident. If a claim is possible, we offer to investigate your case and push for every dime of compensation you deserve to have.
Our main offices are in Indianapolis, but we have several satellite offices and meeting locations to serve clients in Batesville, Fort Wayne, Anderson, Muncie and Lafayette, Indiana. Contact Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC online and we’ll set up an appointment at a location convenient to you or in your home.