Proposed law bans phone calls while driving



Put the cellphone away; the state says it can wait.

New legislation has been introduced to the Indiana House of Representatives and Senate that would ban the use of non-hands-free cellphones while driving.

The bills make it illegal to use a telecommunications device, which is defined as anything from a cellphone to a pager, to send or read a text and make or receive a phone call while driving.

The exception is if the phone call is being placed to report an emergency.

Senate Bill 204 and House Bill 1033 were authored and introduced by Sen. Pete Miller, R-24th District, and Rep. Milo Smith, R-59th District, respectively.

In early December 2014, Miller was in a car accident while on the phone, which was one incentive to draft the bill.

“As I studied this more, I found out that 25 percent of accidents today involve somebody on the phone,” Miller said. “If we can eliminate 25 percent of all accidents, that would be a good thing.”

Two reports on the predicted fiscal impact of the legislation were released in December and prepared by Bill Brumbach, a fiscal analyst for the Indiana ?legislature.

The bills would increase law enforcement workload in order to account for additional citations as well as increase the revenue to the Indiana State General Fund from citation fees.

“The General Fund could receive a maximum additional $750,000 per year from citations issued for distracted driving,” Brumbach said in the reports.

There are already laws in Indiana that prohibit texting while driving that were enacted in 2011. Of the 469,000 citations issued in the past year, 307 of them were for texting while driving.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, in Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky, there is some form of ban in place on sending or reading text messages while driving.

According to a 2011 GHSA report, at least one driver was reported to have been using a cellphone in 15 to 30 percent of all car accidents. This number could be greater, but in many instances, officers may not detect or record all distractions.

The report concludes with a summary of the effects distracted driving has on the risk of car accidents.

“Cell phone use increases crash risk to some extent, but there is no consensus on the size of the increase,” the report said. “There is no conclusive evidence on whether hands-free cell phone use is less risky than hand-held use. Texting probably increases crash risk more than cellphone use.”

The bills have not yet been introduced to a committee, so there is not a specific schedule for their debate in the General ?Assembly.

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