Bill Would Make Phones in Hands Illegal While Driving

Indiana could be the next state to ban drivers from holding their phones while driving.

State Rep. Jim Pressel, a Republican from Rolling Prairie, wants a hands free cell phone law. He says his plan would clarify any questions about Indiana's current no texting law. Pressel's bill would allow police to ticket anyone who is holding their phone, even if they are using speakerphone, while driving.

"Distracted driving is a huge problem," Pressel said. "We need to come up with a hands-free solution," Pressel explained. "So, it's Bluetooth. So you could still use your phone. If you have texting that's available through an app and you can talk without actually having your hand on the device, it helps."

"They're not just texting." Pressel said. "They're surfing the web, they're on Facebook. They're using the phone and they're not paying attention to what they're doing."

He said Georgia passed a similar bill last year and says they've seen an 11% drop in distracted driving crashes in just three months. Pressel acknowledged it's already illegal to text and drive in Indiana, but he says that's really hard to enforce.

"You could be on Facebook, legally, you just can't be texting at the time," Pressel said. "This would address that."

Any driver caught in violation would be ticketed for a class C infraction, punishable with a fine up to $500.

The bill would also allow certain government entities to hire third-party companies to use video cameras to enforce speed limits in construction zones or catch drivers ignoring school bus stop arms regulations.

"What I want to do is protect those workers," said Pressel. According to Pressel, 15 construction workers were killed in construction zones this year.

"We just lost another individual a few weeks ago on 31. It's unfortunate." Pressel said. "Distracted driving, I believe, plays a part of it, but we can't get people to slow down."

The cameras would go in active construction zones on Indiana highways and interstates.

"It would have the geographic location with GPS," said Pressel. "We would know exactly where you were at. We'd know at what speed, at what time. It gets a picture of your license plate."

Pressel said 15,000 Indiana school bus drivers report an average of about 3,000 people who blow by those school bus stop arms every day.

"We need to address that problem. What I also found out is schools have the ability to do that right now through an administrative code, through the Department of Education. What this may do, will be part of codifying that and try to figure out how does the cost get transferred?" Pressel explained. "I talked a little bit about companies that may be willing to partner for a share of any kind of revenue, that's an option. If a school can afford any of this on their own, they can do that right now."

This bill is awaiting a vote in the House Roads and Transportation Committee.