Despite hands-free law, distracted driving still rampant; mom who lost son working to change that

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The hands-free driving law has been in effect for nearly a year, yet distracted driving continues to be a major factor in crashes throughout Indiana.

According to data from Indiana State Police, distracted driving has been a factor in nearly 3,000 crashes throughout the state since July 1, 2020, which is when the law was implemented. Five of those crashes resulted in fatalities.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” said ISP Sergeant Brian Walker. “It’s heartbreaking for the families that are involved that are effected by a fatal crash like that, especially when we know it could be easily prevented.”

No one feels that frustration and heartbreak more than Diveeta Kinchen.

In 2008, Kinchen’s 17-year-old son, Rodney Thompson II, was driving around a bend on Dicke Road, on the west side of Fort Wayne, when he reached for his cell phone. Thompson lost control, crashed his car into a pole and died instantly.

“I felt like a piece of me had taken flight,” said Kinchen. “The pain was so indescribable. He was my oldest child, my only child for 10 years. He was just a senior in high school, about to embark on so many things in life.”

Kinchen and her daughter, Imani, wearing their Stop Texting and Driving Distracted shirts.

Because she doesn’t want her son’s death to be in vain, Kinchen works to bring awareness through her organization Stop Texting and Driving Distracted (STANDD).

“It pressed upon my heart to raise awareness about texting and driving distracted,” said Kinchen. “It’s therapeutic. Any opportunity to prevent someone else from experiencing the loss of their child. Not only that but the domino effect, because I wasn’t the only one that it was other family members and dealing with that grief is indescribable. It’s something that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.”

In the past, STANDD has hosted 3 on 3 basketball tournaments, which was her son’s favorite sport, to raise awareness. Kinchen also speaks at schools and works with Parkview Health’s “Don’t Text and Drive Campaign.” The organizations mission is to “promote empowerment through knowledge, education and purpose.”

The hands-free law is something Kinchen has been an advocate of for many years.

Sgt. Walker says state police have pulled over nearly 1,500 Hoosiers for using their phones while driving since it’s been implemented, although the number of violators is likely much higher. He could not provide the most up to date statistics, because he said the numbers have not yet been vetted properly.

Ways police spot drivers on their phones is by looking at if a driver is going very slow or veering into other lanes, according to Sgt. Walker. He also says police look at driver’s body language, but typically only pull someone over if they are also committing another driving violation.

“If I wanted to stop people for cell phone violations only, I could fill up a couple ticket books in a couple hours,” said Sgt. Walker.

To learn more about STANDD, click here.

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