The Indiana Department of Labor (DOL) website identifies distracted driving as “any non-driving activity a motorist engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving.” Reasons cited for distracted driving include busy lifestyles, stressful jobs, and technology.
Distraction.gov, the official U.S. government website for distracted driving, notes that distracted driving occurs any time a driver takes his or her eyes off the road, hands off the wheel or mind off the primary task of driving safely. Essentially, distracted driving is any non-driving activity in which a driver engages, such as texting while driving. It’s a potential distraction and increases the risk of crashing.
According to the Indiana DOL, the three main types of distracted driving occur when a driver takes his/her mind off the road (cognitive); eyes off the road (visual); or hands off the wheel (manual).
Common driving distractions are:
- Cell phone use, whether talking, texting, or browsing the internet
- Talking to vehicle passengers
- Eating or drinking
- Engaging in personal grooming activities (hair brushing, applying makeup, shaving, etc…)
- Reading books, magazines, newspapers, or maps
- Using a navigation system (GPS)
- Watching videos
- Changing a radio station, CD, mp3, or digital music device
- Scolding children
- Rubbernecking at accidents or attractions
Texting Is a Particularly Dangerous Distraction for Drivers
Under IC § 9-21-8-59, it is illegal to type, send, and read a text or email on your phone while driving. Still, many drivers cannot resist picking up their phones and reading or typing a message.
While all distractions are dangerous, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers texting especially dangerous. This agency breaks distractions behind the wheel into three primary types:
- Distractions that cause you to take your eyes off the road and traffic
- Distractions that cause you to take your hands off the steering wheel
- Distractions that cause you to take your mental focus off of driving
The CDC says texting causes all three distractions at the same time, putting the distracted driver, their passengers, and the occupants of other vehicles at risk.
Distracted Driving Crash Statistics
Consider these concerning distracted driving statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
- 3,142 people were killed in distracted driving crashes in 2020; a 0.7-percent increase from 3,119 in 2019.
- More than 324,000 people were injured in distracted driving accidents in 2020.
- At any moment, more than 660,000 drivers in America are using phones or other electronic devices behind the wheel.
- Texting while driving is one of the most dangerous driver distractions, because it requires motorists to take their hands off the wheel, and their eyes and cognitive focus off of the road.
- The risk of being involved in an accident doubles when a driver takes their eyes off the road for more than one second.
- The average text requires drivers to take their eyes off the road for at least five seconds, which is long enough to travel the length of a football field.
- Teenagers account for the largest proportion of distracted drivers.
FAQs About Distracted Driving
What are the laws for distracted driving in Indiana?
Indiana focuses on the use of mobile devices when it comes to distracted driving. Drivers who are caught using handheld mobile devices face fines and points on their license.
Indiana established a hands-free driving law in 2020. The law focuses on the use of mobile devices while driving. The law applies to devices like cell phones, tablets, smart watches, and other electronics.
The law replaced an older regulation, set up in 2011, which only prohibited texting and driving. Under the new law, drivers cannot use a handheld mobile device in any way while behind the wheel. The law makes it illegal for drivers to:
- Read or send texts
- Read or reply to emails
- Make or answer a call while holding the phone
- Look up directions if they need to hold the phone
Essentially, drivers must use Bluetooth capability to use their mobile devices while driving. Breaking these regulations can lead to legal penalties.
What is the fine for distracted driving in Indiana?
Drivers who misuse their mobile devices commit a Class C infraction in Indiana. The amount for the fine may vary based on a driver’s past record and the circumstances around the mobile device usage. The state may charge up to $500, however.
In addition to facing a fine, drivers who use a hand-held mobile device while driving will have points added to their license, according to WFYI Indianapolis.
The Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) will add four points for each distracted driving violation. The BMV will suspend the licenses of drivers who accrue 20 points within a period of two years.
Do the police take distracted driving seriously?
Absolutely, yes. Mr. Sevenish is a former police officer, Captain, and SWAT Team Commander and he says:
“I can tell you firsthand police officers are profoundly affected and sad when being forced to deal with the tragedy of a significant crash affecting so many others in result —even those not directly involved in the crash. And unlike the average crash victim, police officers deal with it nearly every day of their long careers. There is nothing worse than a police officer being forced to handle a significant crash to innocent people, especially those involving children and infants, directly due to a driver becoming needlessly distracted. Distracted driver accidents are more times than not, clearly avoidable and preventable.”
Some professional law enforcement agencies, such as the Indiana State Police and others, have prepared educational videos making drivers aware of distractions causing crashes with injury and death.
Most likely, police will assign the blame for a car accident on a driver distracted by a phone or other device, or any distraction, if there is evidence to support the use of distractions of any types (which is of course more than use of cell-phones).
However, as a practical matter, it remains extremely difficult for any police officer to make a clear determination that a crash was caused by a distracted driver unless the officer witnesses the distraction him or herself, or without an admission by the driver—which is rare—or other facts supporting evidence of distraction.
And all states have laws against reckless driving, which can be used in situations where distractions pose a clear risk. Most professional law enforcement continues to educate individual drivers one by one as they observe distractions firsthand and before a crash occurs.
Police can only do so much. It remains the direct responsibilities of parents of young drivers and seasoned drivers to recognize the significance of distracted driving and consciously decide not to be distracted and to stay mentally focused to avoid any any motor vehicle, bicycle, or pedestrian injury.
Are there acceptable ways to use mobile devices while driving in Indiana?
Drivers can legally use mobile devices in some ways while driving under Indiana’s new law. Legally, drivers may make phone calls as long as they use a Bluetooth adapter for hands-free conversation. Drivers may only use their hands to call 911 while driving.
Drivers can use turn-by-turn directions as long as they use voice commands to activate the GPS feature. They may want to place their phone in a bracket or mount to easily see directions while driving.
Can good multi-taskers use cell phones behind the wheel?
Despite the clear dangers associated with using a cell phone while driving, many motorists continue this unsafe practice—in part because they’re confident in their ability to multi-task. Unfortunately, our brains are not capable of handling multiple tasks at once. Instead, when we think we’re “multi-tasking” our brains are rapidly switching between tasks, which is incredibly risky behavior on the road.
Another common misconception is that hands-free cell phones are safer than their hand-held counterparts. Years of research shows that hands-free cell phones are just as distracting as traditional cell phones, and using them behind the wheel is just as dangerous.
Is talking on a cell phone while driving less safe than talking to a passenger?
If having a conversation with someone on the other end of a cell phone call is dangerously distracting, surely having a conversation with a passenger is just as treacherous, right? According to federal data, conversing with a passenger was the most frequently recorded element of distracted driving, identified in about 16% of crashes. While a passenger can also serve as a second set of eyes, pointing out road or traffic hazards that the driver might not see, conversations with them contribute to accidents more frequently than cell phone use, which accounted for about 3.4 percent.
Can you file a distracted driving accident claim without an attorney?
If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a distracted driving accident in Indianapolis, we strongly recommend that you do not try to handle your own claim without help from a personal injury lawyer. Distracted driving is illegal under Indiana law but it can be difficult to prove, and you will need to know the common types of evidence, how to prove fault and negligence, and how to identify all recoverable damages.
Representing Distracted Driving Car Accident Victims
When you’re involved in a car accident caused by distracted driving, take steps in the immediate aftermath of the accident to help preserve evidence and avoid mistakes in talking with an insurance adjuster.
The Indiana Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) accident guide recommends the following steps:
- Gather information, and take good notes. It’s required to share your contact information with others involved in the accident, including name, address, and vehicle registration number.
Record the same information from any others involved in the accident.
- Obtain the phone numbers of all involved.
- Record the license plate numbers and vehicle models of all involved.
- Try to get the driver’s license number and insurance information of all involved drivers.
- Record the names of any law enforcement personnel on the scene.
- Try to get the contact information of any witnesses.
Preserving evidence and keeping accurate records of the accident will help you when making your insurance claim.
Indiana Car Accident Attorney
Experienced car accident attorney Randall Sevenish represents clients in Indianapolis and throughout Indiana. At the Sevenish Law Firm, we are committed to helping car accident victims obtain the compensation they deserve.
We provide a confidential and free consultation. Please contact us today to discuss your car accident injury case.