Distracted driving problem isn't getting resolved
Monday, July 15, 2013 11:00 AM
A fatal crash in Jennings County last week has law enforcement officials calling for another review of Indiana's laws concerning driving distractions.
Steven C. Litzy, 24, of North Vernon was killed Wednesday while attempting to use his cellphone while driving on State Road 7 near Scipio.
Currently, only 11 states ban all drivers from talking on a handheld cellphone, according to the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety. Indiana is not one of those states. However, in Indiana and 36 other states, that restriction applies only to motorists under 18.
There is a text-messaging ban for all Hoosier drivers, but Indiana State Police spokesman Sgt. Noel Houze said it's hard to enforce.
"If I see you are an adult with your thumb going while you are driving, I can stop you," Houze told a reporter for the Columbus Republic newspaper. "But if you say you are dialing a friend's number, I can't prove whether or not you are telling the truth."
It's also extremely difficult for any officer to determine the age of a grown motorist, Houze said.
Statistics provided by the Indiana State Police indicate texting and cellphone usage by drivers are just part of a much larger problem of driver distraction.
In the Versailles State Police District - which includes Jefferson County - 5.5 percent of the 182 accidents this year caused by driver distraction were attributed to cellphones.
Today's modern-day conveniences and driving often don't mix. Automakers have loaded vehicles with items from GPS systems to high-tech audio systems that can distract a driver. But the burden is on the driver to not divert attention from the roadway to operate those features.
The most frequent distractions identified by the National Safety Council are:
Adjusting a music system
Using a navigation system
Eating and drinking
Talking to passengers
Reading, including maps
Watching a video
Lawmakers need to expand the scope of distracted driving legislation beyond electronic devices. If not, people will continue to die on our roads.