New law bans cellphone use while driving

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

Cellphone use while driving will soon be against the law in Indiana.

On July 1, House Bill 1070 will go into effect, banning motorists from holding or using a cellphone while driving unless they are calling 911, operating the cellphone through voice technology such as Bluetooth or have the phone secured in a cradle. Motorists caught violating the law will face a Class C infraction with up to $500 in fines.

Ferdinand Police Chief Lloyd Froman explained that the new law will be enforced like other traffic laws, such as speeding or wearing a seat belt. He also expects there to be an education period where officers will have to make the public aware of the new law as they enforce it.

“It’s going to take a while to get used to it, just like everything else,” Froman said.

Lawmakers also built an adjustment period into the bill. According to the law, anyone cited for the infraction before July 1, 2021, will not receive points on their license, which can lead to suspension.

Indiana already bans texting while driving under a 2011 law. That law prohibited typing, sending or reading a text message or email while operating a vehicle unless through hands-free technology. The new law takes the ban further, prohibiting all use of a cellphone while operating a vehicle.

Local law enforcement will work enforcement of the new law into their regular daily duties. Patrol officers will pull over motorists if they see them holding a phone, Huntingburg Assistant Police Chief Brad Kramer said.

“If it’s up to their ear or they can visibly see it in their hands, that would be a good traffic stop, in my opinion,” Kramer said.

The bill, which Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law in March, addresses distracted driving and expands measures already in place that ban texting while driving. The goal is to increase safety. According to a Facebook post by the Dubois County Sheriff’s Office, using a cellphone while driving makes an accident four times more likely.

Froman and Kramer both said officers frequently see people using their cellphones while driving.

“A lot of people are using GPS, texting or calling,” Kramer said.

The widespread use of cellphones while driving is part of why Froman expects the need for an adjustment period once the law takes effect.

“When it first kicks in, there will be people who are unaware of it,” Froman said. “We’ll need an education period to get people used to it.”




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