Enforcement is important


Kokomo Tribune

Indiana legislators passed a law in 2010, aimed at cutting back on the number of motorists texting while driving. It didn’t work.

Two years after that law went into effect, we reported Kokomo police officers had written just five citations.

The problem, police say, is the law is nearly impossible to enforce. Other police departments have come to the same conclusion. According to the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, law enforcement issued 2,020 tickets for texting while driving between 2011 and 2015, The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne reported. “That’s about 500 tickets a year for the whole state,” the newspaper said.

July 1 marks the date when drivers of motor vehicles can no longer use or hold a cellphone while operating a vehicle on Indiana roads and highways. And we have to ask, will this new law have an enforcement problem as well?

The law, signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb on March 18, is an important one. Adopted in the recent session of the state Legislature, the cellphone ban is bold but not revolutionary. Across the country, 21 states, including neighboring Illinois, already have laws banning the use of cellphones while driving.

In addition to banning talking or texting on a cellphone while driving, that means no checking the weather or the traffic map. No looking at photos. No videos. No quick look at the email inbox. No holding the phone in your hand. The only exception is making a call to 911 emergency services or when the vehicle is stopped.

A driver can still use some cellphone features under the new law if the device is mounted on a vehicle’s dashboard or in hands-free mode.

Violations could be costly — up to a $500 fine and possible loss of a driver’s license for repeat offenders. Hopefully that convinces drivers to take the law seriously.

Distracted driving is a major threat on roads and highways and cellphones have added to those dangers. Laws aimed at reducing distracted driving pose enforcement challenges and won’t eliminate the practice. But states that have attacked the problem aggressively through strict laws have found that crashes associated with the risky driving behavior have been reduced. More importantly, fatalities have gone down.

When the law goes into effect this summer, we encourage police officials to demonstrate their commitment to enforcement. Drivers need to know that the law is being taken seriously by traffic enforcers so that they will take it seriously as well.

Laws that won’t be enforced with consistency — or can’t be, as in the case of the texting law — aren’t really laws at all.

Send comments to [email protected].

No posts to display