Reminder – Indiana’s Hands Free Law Goes Into Effect July 1st
A new law in Indiana aims to curb distracted driving by threatening to hit you where it hurts the most — your wallet.
Back in March, Governor Eric Holcomb signed House Bill 1070, a.k.a. the "Distracted Driving Law" into law. The Indiana Department of Labor, citing a 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Transportation (the most recent year data is available according to them), says "3,328 people died in crashes linked to driver distraction, and more than 421,000 more people suffered a distracted driving-related injury." They go on to note that "17 percent of all crashes resulting in an injury involved driver distraction."
I'm certainly guilty of checking my phone while driving, even though my truck has both Bluetooth and Apple Car Play compatibility. For example, the day I'm writing this article, I received a motion notification from my video doorbell while driving, and didn't have the will power to not check it. So, while I'm cruising down the highway at 65 miles an hour I'm glancing down to watch the video showing what set the doorbell off in the first place. That was stupid, and I know better, yet I did it anyway. Clearly I need to either pull over into a parking lot out of traffic before checking those types of notifications, or wait until I get home before I look.
Let's say that would have happened July 1st (2020) when the Distracted Driving Law goes into effect. Let's also say a law enforcement officer caught me in the act. In that case, they could have pulled me over and given me a ticket. A ticket that would be considered a Class C misdemeanor and brought with it a fine of up to $500. Ouch. But no doubt an "ouch" I would deserve.
The new law prohibits you from holding your cell phone in any way while operating a motor vehicle, as Indiana State Police Department Sergeant, and emoji king, Todd Ringle explained in a tweet Wednesday morning.
As Sergeant Ringle notes, talking on the phone using Bluetooth, Apple Car Play, Android Auto, or a similar connection that allows you to talk to whoever is calling while you still keep both hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road ahead of you is perfectly OK, as is using some type of mounting bracket you can attach to your dashboard that allows you to use the speakerphone function on your device.
The only exception to the rule, also noted by Sergeant Ringle, is in the event you need to call 911 for any reason. Then, and only then, can you have the phone in your hand, and holding it up to your ear.
If you're guilty of using your phone while driving like I am from time to time, keep this new law in mind next time you hear the sweet siren sound of a notification come from your device. It may turn out to be the most expensive call you take.
UPDATE: TUESDAY, JUNE 30TH
Sergeant Nick Winsett, the Evansville Police Department's Public Information Officer, came by the studio to discuss the law and how officers will handle making sure drivers are aware of it over the course of the first month.