Insurance News

Indiana panel backs bill to ban texting while driving

Posted on: February 5, 2010

Indiana would join a growing number of states that have banned texting while driving if legislation approved by a state House committee on Wednesday becomes law.

The House Public Policy Committee voted unanimously for the bill by Democratic Rep. Joseph Pearson of Hartford City after several people told the panel that it would save lives. It would make transmitting text messages or e-mails while driving a Class C infraction with a possible fine of $500.

The bill now moves to the full House.

“Text messaging while driving should be made illegal because it presents a clear and persistent danger to all drivers on the road — not only the person texting and driving but everyone sharing the road with them,” said Sherry Deane, a public affairs officials with the AAA Hoosier Motor Club.

Deane commended legislators for enacting a law last year that prohibits drivers younger than 18 from using cell phones or other telecommunication devices while driving. Pearson’s bill does not cover drivers 18 or over talking on cell phones. Lawmakers have rejected such bills in the past.

But Deane said it was still important to pass the texting bill.

“People of all ages are doing this, and it doesn’t matter if you are 16, 36 or 56, it’s an extremely dangerous behavior regardless of age,” she said.

Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Elkhart, suggested that it was a “feel good bill” that would be difficult to enforce. But proponents predicted that many people who text while driving would stop if they knew it was against the law.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 19 states have outlawed texting while driving, and six prohibit using hand-held cell phones while behind the wheel. Bans on texting while driving took effect earlier this month in New Hampshire, Oregon and Illinois.

The U.S. Transportation Department issued an order on Tuesday that prohibits truckers and bus drivers from sending text messages on hand-held devices while driving.

President Barack Obama has prohibited texting by federal employees in government vehicles or if they are in their own cars if they are using government phones or conducting official business. And legislation has been introduced in Congress that would ban texting while driving.

Pearson said the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has compiled data showing that drivers who are texting take their eyes off the road an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds. He said that means someone texting while driving at 55 mph will travel the length of a football field without viewing the road.

Kathleen Soens, 54, of Carmel told the committee that her husband, 53-year-old George Rossman, was killed in July 2008 when a man checking a text message and not paying attention to traffic was struck by a woman’s vehicle, sending the man’s car into her husband’s car.

“Pass legislation banning and punishing this carelessness,” Soens said. “I don’t want another family to go through the nightmare my family has been through.”

Pearson’s bill does not speak to checking text or e-mail messages, only transmitting them.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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