Odds are you’ve been driving and picked up your cell phone to send a quick text or answer a call you’d been waiting on all day.
Many people are guilty of doing just that, but with a new law that went into effect July 1, it could earn you a ticket from police if you get caught.
Gov. Eric Holcomb signed House Bill 1070 into law back in March of this year. The new law will prohibit drivers from holding or using a handheld mobile device while operating a moving vehicle.
Possible consequences of breaking the law could include a fine of up to $500 and even losing a driver’s license for multiple violations.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website, distracted driving claimed 2,841 lives in 2018; those killed included 1,730 drivers, 605 passengers, 400 pedestrians and 77 bicyclists.
The NHTSA website defines distracted driving as an activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking, texting, eating and drinking, talking to other people in the vehicle, changing the radio, entertainment or navigation system.
Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds; when going 55 mph, that’s the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed, according to NHTSA website.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Motor Vehicle Safety page estimates nine people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured each day in crashes that are reported to have involved a distracted driver. Distractions are defined in three categories: visual, manual and cognitive.
Given the era of more advanced technology and the fact that many young drivers, who lack driving experience, have a tendency to think they’re invincible, this can lead to unnecessary heartbreak and grief for families everywhere when things go wrong.
Many local organizations, including Parkview Regional Medical Center, already have resources that encourage people to limit distracted driving, including the hospital group’s “Don’t Text and Drive” campaign.
The Parkview campaign has online resources as well as public-service announcements, including vehicles with decals with the “Don’t Text and Drive” slogan.
Guidelines given on the website are to put phones on silent or out of sight in order to avoid the temptation of reading or responding to a text; avoid reading text messages even when stopped at a red light; and waiting to use a device until being safely and legally parked.
Technology companies such as Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and AT&T have similar programs, which have specific phone settings.
Once that setting is turned on, the phone will sense if you’re driving and have you hit an additional prompt before you can use the phone to do anything else.
It will also send a response to anyone texting you, stating you’ll respond as soon as you are safely able.
Already, Indiana law made it illegal for a driver under 18 to use a cell phone while driving and no one of any age could type or read texts and email messages, but such activities can be difficult to enforce.
Republican state Rep. Holli Sullivan of Evansville authored the new law.
“Distracted driving kills, and we need a cultural shift in order to save lives,” Sullivan said on March 11, after the bill moved to Holcomb’s desk. “Most of us are guilty of using our phones while driving and we all need to do a better job of putting our devices down and focusing on the road.”
Going hands-free will still be allowed for anyone with a Bluetooth connection and a dashboard phone mount. Drivers will also be able to hold a mobile device when their vehicle is stopped.
While enforcing the law might be hard at first, the overall goal is to save lives. The new law also states that motorists who are ticketed before July 1, 2020, for using a cellphone while driving will not receive any points on their license.
Other laws that effect July 1:
State Rep. Dave Abbott, R-Rome City, sent out a newsletter highlighting some other new laws of interest to his constituents in District 82, which covers all of Noble County as well as parts of LaGrange, Allen, Whitley and Elkhart counties.
• Teachers, Students and Schools — Abbott said as part of House Enrolled Act 1002, standardized test scores will no longer be required to be a part of teacher performance evaluations. He said this should reduce the pressure educators often feel to teach to the test and, as a result, make teaching more attractive as a career.
To help cut red tape, House Enrolled Act 1003 went into effect earlier this year to allow the State Board of Education to streamline the timing and frequency of required teacher trainings and grant waivers for schools to bypass over 1,500 regulations. As Indiana continues to transition to the new ILEARN exam, lawmakers passed Senate Enrolled Act 2 so that school accountability grades cannot be negatively impacted by student scores for two years.
Abbott said House Enrolled Act 1283 supports students with mental health issues, including those involved in bullying, and experiencing behavioral problems or physical illnesses. The new law ensures aspiring educators receive training on best practices to recognize students’ behavioral reactions to trauma so they can address these issues in their classrooms with increased understanding and insight.
• Patients — Under House Enrolled Act 1004, patients will be protected from receiving surprise medical bills from out-of-network providers, and, in the case of an elective procedure, the patient will have the right to receive an upfront, good-faith estimate of expected charges.
In addition, Senate Enrolled Act 5 requires hospitals, outpatient surgery centers and urgent care clinics to publish their average prices online, and Abbott said a new HIPAA-compliant database of all health insurance claims will empower consumers by providing information about cost and quality.
• Farmers and Rural Communities — Senate Enrolled Act 184 allows the Indiana Farm Bureau to offer a health benefits plan to its members. Abbott said this plan is not health insurance, but would provide similar benefits to help many farmers who have limited access to affordable health care options. Other states, such as Kansas and Tennessee, have implemented similar programs through their Farm Bureaus.
To support rural communities, House Enrolled Act 1370 allows cities and towns to band together and enter into regional land banks to acquire tax-delinquent and blighted properties to restore them.