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Indiana police agencies cracking down on distracted driving

Last year, police in Indiana wrote more than 12,000 warnings and handed out more than 6,000 tickets.

HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. — On the road in Hamilton County, Sgt. Kevin Crask said it never takes long to find a distracted driver.

"Every time you pull up to a stop light, people have a cellphone in their hand, texting," said Crask, a deputy with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

The county's Traffic Safety Partnership joined law enforcement agencies across the country Thursday for a one-day, targeted enforcement campaign to combat texting and other forms of distracted driving.

13News rode along with Crask and it didn't take long to find violators.

"The reason I'm stopping you is because when I was next to you, you were messing around with your phone," Crask told a driver he stopped along I-69. "Did you know it's illegal in Indiana to drive with your phone in your hand?"

The driver acknowledged that yes, he knew.

It's not just texting that's distracting drivers. Police say they also see younger people more often recording video or themselves.

"There's a time and a place for everything, and when you're driving isn't the right time to be recording a video or taking a selfie," said Devon McDonald, executive director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. "If your eyes are off the road, you're putting yourself and others at risk. It's like driving blindfolded."

Credit: Adobe Stock Images

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving-related crashes in 2020 — the same year Indiana passed its hands-free driving law.

Last year, police in Indiana wrote more than 12,000 warnings and handed out more than 6,000 tickets. Violators of the hands-free law could face a Class C infraction with fines up to $500 and have points added to their license.

Crask said the law has helped, but he still sees violators every day.

"It's still a problem," he said.

Now, people hide their cellphone on their lap. So Crask looks for the signs.

"A sudden jerk of the wheel or sudden braking is a common one that tells you they're not paying attention to what's going on in front of them," he said.

The goal is not just to write tickets, but to save lives.

The extra enforcement Thursday was funded by NHTSA with grants administered by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.

    

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