On Monday, Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a proclamation declaring April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month in Indiana.
Now in its 11th year, the national observance is dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers and consequences of distracted driving, as well as reminding motorists about the importance of paying attention to the road, the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI) said.
“There’s only one task we should be focused on when behind the wheel and that’s safe driving – everything else can wait,” Gov. Holcomb said. “By making a commitment to always pay attention to the road, we all work together to save lives.”
Distracted driving is considered any activity that diverts attention away from the task of driving and includes everything from adjusting the stereo to grooming to eating and drinking. All forms are considered dangerous as they increase the risk of crashing, texting continues to be the most pervasive.
“On average, people that text and drive take their attention away from the road for five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that’s the equivalent of driving the full length of a football field blindfolded,” the ICJI said.
In 2020, Indiana became the 22nd state in the nation to pass a hands-free device driving law, which prohibits motorists from holding a mobile device, except in emergencies, while their vehicles are moving. Anyone caught violating the law could face a Class C infraction with fines up to $500.
Since the law went into effect last July, more than 2,918 citations and 7,352 warnings have been issued statewide as of March 31, according to the ICJI.
“We’re making progress, but we still have a long way to go,” said Devon McDonald, ICJI Executive Director. “We need more people to understand that distracted driving kills and is something we can all live without. Sending or reading a text isn’t worth causing a crash or taking someone’s life.”
On April 8, ICJI said Indiana is participating in a nationwide enforcement campaign to discourage texting and driving called Connect 2 Disconnect. For one day, police agencies across the state will be conducting high-visibility patrols to prevent distracted driving crashes while working to educate motorists about the hands-free law.
Connect 2 Disconnect is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration through the criminal justice institute.
“Distracted driving is such a dangerous task, and one so many people engage in every day on our roadways,” said Doug Carter, Indiana State Police Superintendent. “Law enforcement throughout the state continues to enforce the hands-free law and provide education to the motoring public, but we need everyone’s help to change this dangerous driving behavior. Lives literally depend on it.”