The New Year promises to usher in new state and federal laws of the kind that Indiana personal injury lawyers would really like to see. Our state continues to lag behind many in its approach to the safety issues arising from motorists texting and using cell phones while driving. We currently have a ban on all cell phone use by motorists below the age of 18. However, there is no law yet that bans texting while driving for all.
A new bill introduced by Senator Travis Holman (R-Markle) will ban texting and sending emails behind the wheel for all drivers. The bill was filed in the legislature last year, and a non budget session of the legislature which begins on January 5th, has the bill on its agenda. The momentum against cell phone use while driving is gaining momentum in Indiana, and the bill has received support from legislators, Indiana personal injury attorneys and the public.
Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia ban texting while driving. A number of other states have legislation coming up this year that will ban texting (Kansas), use of handheld cell phones (South Carolina) and GPS systems (New Jersey), while driving. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has already made clear his commitment to fighting this menace. During last year’s Distracted Driving summit, he spoke of legislation that would punish states that did not enforce bans on texting while driving, by withholding federal transportation funds. The DOT also has a new website dedicated solely to distracted driving. All this should spur legislative efforts towards a texting ban in Indiana.
Also taking effect in 2010 is a new rule that bans federal employees from texting while driving government vehicles. That rule came after President Obama signed an executive order post the Distracted Driving summit.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that approximately 6,000 people died in 2008 in accidents involving distracted drivers, many of these caused by cell phone use. Those were precious lives that could have been saved with stronger legislation banning these dangerous practices. As Indiana personal injury lawyers, we hope the Indiana legislature will take another step toward motorist safety by banning texting while driving.