New teen driver law may be tough to enforce

David MacAnally/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - New rules for drivers under 18 years old went into effect Wednesday. What remains to be seen is how police will enforce them.

The law took effect July 1st and other rules phase in through 2010. Text messaging and any other non-emergency use of cell phones while driving is now banned for drivers under 18.

"What we really want them to know is, it's common sense," said Sgt. Dave Bursten, Indiana State Police.

And now it's the law. It's not hard to find examples of drivers failing to pay attention to the road.

"I was driving to school early in the morning and was texting," said Dominic. He got so distracted he "ran off the road, hit a pole and I was unconscious."

Dominic still carries the scar.

"Anything that distracts you from driving be it texting or talking on the phone or playing an iPod or anything else can be the straw that breaks the camel back and causes a crash," said Bursten.

"It's bad," said Dominic.

On Keystone, Eyewitness News watched a woman text and drive for about a mile - driving with her knees. She was not a teen and police wouldn't pull her over under the new law.

In fact, Indiana State Police don't have the manpower to pull over every young driver using a cell phone just because they look younger than 18. So how can they enforce the new law?

"We're expecting voluntary compliance. We're expecting parents to reinforce it with their young driver," said Bursten.

But if a talking, texting teen wrecks their vehicle, they will be fined and if an officer knows the driver and knows they are under 18, "they could be stopped and cited."

The idea is to hopefully instill the right habits in young drivers so they're less inclined to use their cell phones while driving - even when they're over 18.

"You need to concentrate on the road, not your cell phone or pushing the buttons or texting. It's just not safe," said Christina Merriweather, a local mom. She tries to drive home that point home to her soon-to-be driving daughters. Now she's glad to have a new law to back her up - and a possible $500 fine.