Indiana has recently passed and enacted updated driving rules to try to combat the growing risk of distracted driving accidents. On July 1st, 2020, it became unlawful to hold a smartphone for practically any reason while you are driving a vehicle, even if you are fully stopped at a red-light intersection. The only exception is to pick up your phone to dial 911 to report an emergency.
A quick overview of the updated law:
- The simple act of holding your cellphone or “telecommunications device” while operating a motor vehicle is a citable moving violation.
- You can still use your smartphone if you are using hands-free technology, like a paired Bluetooth system.
- Picking up your phone to dial 911 is still permitted.
- The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) will not add points to your driving record for related citations until July 1st, 2021.
Although you might have understandably assumed that holding your smartphone while driving was already unlawful, you would technically be incorrect. Before July 2020, Indiana only made it unlawful to actually type, read, or send a text communication while driving. Law enforcement officers had complained that it was unreasonably difficult to confidently hand someone a citation, though, since they could argue then and before a BMV administrative panel that they were using their smartphone to listen to music, browse Instagram, and other actions that are distracting but are not texting.
Remember: Being stopped at a red light still counts as operating your vehicle. You can be handed a citation for picking up your smartphone while stopped.
Penalties for Violating the New Cellphone Use Rule
For a first-time violation of the updated smartphone use while driving rule, you can be fined up to $500. This financial penalty far exceeds the penalties used in many other states, which often cap first-time penalties at $50 or $100.
The Indiana BMV will also start adding points to your driving record if you are cited for using a smartphone while driving after July 1st, 2021. At this time, the BMV has not announced how many points will be added for a citation, though. It is worth noting that a texting-and-driving violation previously would add 4 points to a driving record, and 20 points or more resulted in a suspension.
How Dangerous is Distracted Driving?
According to data from the Indiana State Police, close to 10,500 car accidents in the state in 2019 were caused directly by the actions of a distracted driver. About 20% of those crashes caused serious injuries and at least 19 of them resulted in a death. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported almost 30 traffic deaths in Indiana in 2018.
With the updated driving rules giving highway patrol officers more opportunities to stop and cite distracted drivers, it will hopefully result in fewer distracted driving accidents. Saving even one life will make the effort worth it.
You can learn more about the legal update by clicking here and viewing a full article from IndyStar. If you are looking for legal help after being in a distracted driving accident, then you can call (317) 236-9000 and speak with our attorneys from Tabor Law Firm. We have helped distracted driving accident claimants throughout Indiana seek justice and compensation after a bad crash caused by texting drivers.