Distracted driving is becoming increasingly problematic in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that distracted driving claimed nearly 2,850 lives in 2018.
Thankfully, Indiana decided to do its part in reducing the number of distracted driving-related accidents by passing Hands-Free Indiana in July of 2020.
The new law is among several measures being introduced across the country to penalize and punish drivers that ignore the rules. Distracted driving is dangerous and cell phone use on the roads is known to increase the likelihood of a car accident.
What is the Indiana law on distracted driving? Learn more about the new law which hopes to crack down on distracted driving and thus prevent future car accidents.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is defined by the NHTSA as, “the act of driving while engaging in other activities which distract the driver’s attention away from the road.”
In other words, any activity that takes your attention away from driving (and the road), technically falls under the definition of “distracted driving.” However, for the most part, the Indiana driving law is aimed at targeting cell phone use on the road, including talking and texting.
Research has indicated that simply taking your eyes off the road to check a text or make a call for five seconds is the equivalent of driving the entire length of a football field with your eyes closed.
Nonetheless, an alarming number of motorists confess that they have or frequently use a cell phone while on the road. For this reason, Indiana decided to pass new legislation aimed at cracking down on distracted driving:
Hands-Free Indiana Law
The Hands-Free Indiana law became effective in the state July 1, 2020. The new legislation has a goal of reducing distracted driving-related accidents which have grown tremendously over the last decade, particularly with the increased prevalence of cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle.
The new law prohibits drivers from holding mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, in their hands while they operate a motor vehicle.
Indiana previously had a “do not text while driving law” which went into effect in 2011. However, the law was found unenforceable by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals because the language in the legislation was too narrowly focused.
For this reason, the state opted to expand on the 2011 law by adding a second part which essentially makes it illegal to have the phone or tablet in your hands while driving. You may, on the other hand, use a hands-free or voice-operated option.
Can the New Law Reduce Traffic Fatalities?
Car accidents in the United States have been a major problem for decades. It’s one of the leading causes of death in the country, not counting the thousands of serious injuries. Even more alarming, the number of traffic accidents and fatalities has sharply increased in recent years.
Several experts link distracted driving to the spike in car accidents and deaths. Studies have demonstrated that distracted driving is extremely dangerous and comparable to drunk driving. In fact, the NHSTA concluded that driving a vehicle while texting is 6x more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.
While drunk driving-related accidents, particularly deaths, have dropped in the last few decades the opposite trend is true of distracted driving. The new law introduced by Indiana, along with other measures being drafted throughout the country, hope to make distracted driving a serious traffic offense in the future.
Hands-Free Indiana – FAQ
Hands-Free Indiana was introduced by Governor Eric J. Holcomb in 2020 and overwhelmingly approved by the state congress with bipartisan support. It was signed as a law on March 18, 2020 and became official July 1, 2020.
What types of cell phone use are not allowed under Hands-Free Indiana?
The law dictates that a driver may not have any type of mobile device in his or her hands while operating the vehicle. Therefore, all types of cell phone use are illegal while operating a motor vehicle.
The only exception is you still may use a mobile device if it’s hands-free or voice-operated, therefore not taking your eyes or attention off the road. Examples of these devices would include Bluetooth or a headset.
What if I need my phone to find a location?
You may still use your phone for tracking a location if it’s hands-free. The primary guideline is the phone cannot be in your hands while driving.
What is the penalty for distracted driving in Indiana?
Motorists that do not follow the new Hands-Free Indiana law are subject to a fine. It is considered a traffic violation and will show up on your record.
Do I lose points from my driver’s license if I break the law?
Yes, starting in July 2021 the Indiana BMV will start adding points to records. Violators of Hands-Free Indiana may be subject to other penalties. Since the law is new, not all the components of the law have been fully implemented until 2021.
Call for a Free Consultation
Were you recently in a car accident or looking for more information about liability and distracted driving? Our experienced Indiana car accident lawyers are standing by. Contact us today for a free consultation.