Will Indiana’s new distracted driving restrictions save lives?

Cellphones have become an essential part of daily life. Many feel anxious when their phone is not within arm’s reach to access their calendars, emails, texts, to-do lists, social media apps and music. Unfortunately, the pull to remain connected comes at a cost.

Studies show that mobile devices are a significant cause of distracted driving accidents. The risk of being in a car crash is two to six times greater when a driver has a mobile device in their hand. When a driver glances at their phone, their gaze is typically taken from the road for about 5 seconds. If you are traveling at 55 mph, you can travel the entire length of a football field during this time.

Indiana’s new hands-free law aims to decrease distracted driving

Indiana passed a new hands-free law that took effect July 1, 2020. Under the new law, drivers cannot use any telecommunications devices behind the wheel unless the driver is using Bluetooth or another hands-free option. Drivers seen holding their phones or tablets are pulled over and fined. Starting July 1, 2021, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) will begin adding points to a violator’s license.

Since July 1, Indiana police have pulled over almost 4,000 drivers for violating the hands-free law. They issued 730 citations and 3,150 warnings.

Will the new law make a difference?

Clearly, many Indiana drivers are still using their smartphones regardless of the new legislation. However, data from other states suggests that we may see significant changes over the next couple of years.

15 states (and Washington, D.C.) passed hands-free laws before 2018. Within two years of passing the hands-free laws, 12 states showed a decrease in traffic fatality rates. (No data is available for two states.)

While these statistics remain hopeful that a change in laws will be accompanied by a change in driver behavior, Indiana motorists must remain vigilant. No amount of legislation can eliminate distracted driving practices. Additionally, many forms of dangerous distracted driving habits are not outlawed, including:

  • Drinking and eating
  • Changing the stereo
  • Talking with passengers
  • Tending to children in the back seat
  • Looking at GPS maps

It is impossible to eliminate the possibility of an accident. However, drivers should try to minimize distractions within their own vehicles and be aware of other cars around them. If you see a driver drifting into other lanes, swerving, bending over, or erratically speeding up or slowing down, give them extra space. These are all signs that the driver may not be giving their full attention to the road.

If you are in an accident, a personal injury attorney can help you understand your rights and your options.