Column: Distracted driving law to help keep streets safe

By ANTHONY QUINN
Guest Columnist

Indiana’s new distracted driving law takes effect July 1 this year. The new law makes it an infraction to hold and use a handheld mobile device while operating a moving vehicle. Indiana is the 22nd state to enact such a law.

Indiana’s governor, Eric Holcomb, made the distracted driving law a top priority in the 2020 Indiana Legislative Session. The governor cited the safety of Hoosiers on the road as his motivation for pushing for the law.

There are now more crashes related to texting and driving than drinking and driving, and people who text while driving are 23 times more likely to crash. Studies have found that your reaction time will be about 30% slower if you are trying to text and drive. A texting driver spends an average of 10% of driving time out of his or her lane. In looking down to send or read a text while driving, a driver takes his eyes off the road for an average of almost 5 seconds.

While that does not seem like a long time, a person driving at 55 mph travels the length of a football field in 5 seconds. When asked, most people who admit that they text while driving claim to be able to do it safely. However, when tested on a simulator that uses everyday hazards (People crossing the road, animals crossing, sudden traffic stops), almost no one could do it without crashing if texting at the same time.

Indiana State Police say distracted driving was to blame in at least 860 injury crashes and 48 fatalities in Indiana last year. The National Safety Council reports that cellphone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year.

The new law prohibits the handheld use of a cellphone while driving. Touching a phone to, for example, check the weather or look at a photo while driving is not allowed. The new measure specifies, however, that it will be legal for drivers to use phones if they’re mounted on a vehicle’s dashboard or in hands-free mode. Drivers will be able to hold and use a mobile device when their vehicle is stopped.

Infraction fines for violations of this new law can be up to $500 and repeat offenders may be subject to a loss of driving privileges. Violations will not, however, result in points toward a driver’s license suspension until after July 2021.

As your prosecutor, I hope we never have occasion to have to enforce these new provisions. I encourage everyone in our community to do their best to comply with the new rules and help keep our streets safe. As always, please feel free to contact our office with any questions you may have about complying with the new law.

Anthony Quinn is a Dubois County prosecutor in the 57th judicial circuit. He can be reached at adquinn@duboiscountyin.org or 812-482-4725.




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