More and more, state legislatures are taking action to try to reduce injuries and deaths in auto wrecks caused by distracted drivers. Illinois took action in 2018 and 2019, making it a felony to cause great bodily harm to someone else while driving and using an electronic device simultaneously. Now Indiana has joined in the trend, though its law is not as strong as Illinois’.
Starting on July 1, drivers will be prohibited from using a handheld cellphone or other device while their vehicles are in motion. If a police officer catches you talking, texting or using apps with your hand on the phone while driving, it will be a moving violation with a fine of up to $500. Repeat violations can result in a suspended driver’s license.
However, the bill’s sponsor hopes that officers will not enforce the law for at least a year. He wants offenders to receive warnings first.
Comparing with the Illinois distracted driving law
As you can see, this law will not have nearly as much teeth or, possibly, enforcement action as Illinois’ anti-distracted driving law. In Chicago and the Illinois side of the metro area, an accident caused by a distracted driver that left someone else with great bodily harm could result in the driver spending one to three years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. It is important to note that both Illinois and Indiana law allow drivers to use their devices hands-free, or use their hands to call 911.
The new Indiana law is in response to a 2016 decision by a federal appellate court that essentially gutted a 2011 anti distracted driving law. That statute specifically prohibited driving while using a cellphone to send, read or type text messages and emails. The court ruled that police could not possibly tell if a driver was doing those things or using their phone in other ways, such as viewing a photo or app, that were allowed under the law.
Dealing with different states’ laws
Living along a state border can make it confusing to know your rights after you have been hurt in a car accident. For people who live in the Chicago area, an attorney who practices in both Illinois and Indiana can be invaluable.