Panel endorses Indiana ban on drivers using handheld phones

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A push to combat distracted driving with a ban on the use of handheld cellphones has cleared its first hurdle toward becoming the law in Indiana. An Indiana House committee voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of the bill making cellphone use by all motorists illegal unless they are using hands-free or voice-operated technology, except in emergencies. The state police superintendent said distracted driving was to blame in at least 860 injury crashes and 48 crashes with deaths across Indiana last year. The full House could vote on the proposal in the coming week.

State Rep. Holli Sullivan’s (R-Evansville) bill would prohibit holding a hand-held electronic device while driving passed out of the House Roads and Transportation Committee Wednesday.

Sullivan, who chairs the committee, said nine Americans are killed each day as a result of distracted driving. It is also one of the top killers of teenagers, responsible for more than 58 percent of teen crashes. She said while Indiana has a law that prohibits texting while driving, it is difficult to enforce and drivers continue to use their devices including scrolling through social media feeds and playing games.

“Studies show how dangerous distracted driving is, and it is time for Indiana to act to prevent drivers from endangering themselves and others,” Sullivan said. “This is a simple but effective way to strengthen the current law. It provides clarity for drivers, law enforcement and prosecutors.”

Sullivan said 21 states have implemented “hands-free device driving laws.” If passed, Hoosier drivers could not hold their cell phone or electronic communication devices while driving.

“We need a cultural shift in order to stop crashes caused by distracted driving,” Sullivan said. “Indiana will be a safer place for everyone if people put their phones down and focus on driving.”

According to Sullivan, there will be a comprehensive and statewide educational campaign to inform Hoosiers about this law if it is enacted.

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(This story was originally published on January 22, 2020)

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