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Law banning holding cell phones while driving in effect July 1

Violators to face up to $500 in fines

By Crusader Staff Report

A new law in Indiana that prohibits drivers from holding cell phones while on the road takes effect July 1.

Violators could pay up to $500 fines if caught.

The new law comes 13 years after Gary became the first city in Northwest Indiana to prohibit the use of cell phones while driving.

Last week, Governor Eric Holcomb made the practice illegal statewide after he signed legislation into law. The legislation was approved 81-11 in the House and 49-1 by the Senate.

“Distracted driving increases the risk of a crash by more than 3 ½ times and is a leading killer of teenagers in America. This is unacceptable and avoidable,” Holcomb said.

Indiana now joins 21 U.S. states to ban drivers from holding cell phones while on the road.

Under the new law, drivers can use their phones if the device is mounted on a dashboard, or otherwise operated in hands-free mode. Drivers can also hold and use a mobile device when their vehicle is at a complete stop. The new law allows drivers on the road to dial 911 to report a genuine emergency.

However, the new law bans drivers from holding their cell phone while their car is moving. In addition to fines of up to $500, repeat offenders could potentially lose their license under the new law.

State Representative Holli Sullivan, R-Evansville, who sponsored the new law, said she hopes police will educate drivers first with written warnings, before issuing tickets for violations.

Lawmakers hope the new law will reduce accidents caused by distracted driving.

According to a study by the University of Utah, cell phone users are 5.36 times more likely to get into an accident than undistracted drivers. Another study released by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Virginia Technical Transportation Institute say text messaging increases the risk of crash or near-crash by 23 times.

Under an Indiana law that was passed in 2011, drivers were not allowed to type, transmit or read email or text messages while on the road. That law did not include holding a cell phone while driving.

In Richmond, Virginia, an ordinance that bans using a cell phone took effect in June. The law does not restrict a driver from simply holding a mobile device while on the road. A similar law passed by the state goes into effect near the end of the year.

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