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What you need to know about Indiana's proposed hands-free driving law

Posted: 2:53 PM, Jan 22, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-22 14:57:52-05
Opinion: Are distracted drivers driving you nuts?

INDIANAPOLIS — A 15-word bill heard Wednesday in a House committee hearing could save the lives of hundreds of Hoosiers.
The House Roads and Transportation Committee heard House Bill 1070 Wednesday, which would prohibit holding a cell phone while driving. The bill was written to crack down on distracted driving in the state.

It would be a primary enforcement offense, meaning you could be pulled over simply for holding your phone while the vehicle is moving. But if you're still confused about what it would mean, here are some frequently asked questions about the bill and what it would do.

What if my phone is mounted on my dashboard?

You will be OK. The law is specifically intended to keep the devices out of your hand. If it’s in a cupholder or mounted to your dash, you’re not in violation.

Is distracted driving an issue in Indiana?

Well, the head of Indiana State Police, Doug Carter, testified in support of the legislation Wednesday. Last year, there were 2,905 property damage crashes, 860 personal injury crashes and 48 fatal crashes with a connection to distracted driving in Indiana, Carter said.

“Those are only what we know,” he said. “When we get to the scene [of those crashes], drivers do not say, ‘I was on my phone and I did this.’”

Wait, doesn’t Indiana already have a law like this?

Kind of. Indiana currently has a law that prohibits texting while driving. But police say that law is unenforceable. It may prohibit texting, but doesn’t say anything about, say tweeting or watching YouTube videos. This law would expand that, in a way. This law would mean you couldn’t hold a phone while driving.

Do any other states have this kind of law?

Yes. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 21 states have a hands-free law on the books, including Tennessee and Illinois.

Why is this happening this year?

It’s a 2020 item likely because of Gov. Eric Holcomb. It was on Holcomb’s legislative agenda this year, and he publicly called for a hands-free law in Indiana in his State of the State address last week.

But I want to use my phone! It’s hard to put it down to focus on the road.

Yes, even Carter discussed that Wednesday.

“I’m going to tell you – I’m guilty,” Carter said, putting his hand in the air. “I am really guilty. Immediate communication is so important to all of us. And I’m working at it. Eventually I’m gonna put my phone in my darn trunk. But right now I’m really working at not using it because it’s so dangerous.”

What did people say about the proposal?

Everybody who testified at Wednesday’s hearing were in support of the bill. It passed the committee unanimously and will now head to the full House.

But it may have some trouble passing in the full House chamber. At the beginning of the session, Speaker Brian Bosma said some members of the House don’t think it’s a decision for government to make.

Westfield Mayor Andy Cook addressed the criticism in his testimony.

“I know we’re hearing some of that, even from members of my own Republican party, about this infringing on our rights” Cook said. “My response to that is, what about my rights, as a grandfather? What about the rights of my wife and grandmother?”