By Haley Miller
Indiana motorists will now receive four penalty points on their driver’s license for violating the state’s hands-free driving law, which prohibits holding a telecommunications device while driving, Indiana BMV Commissioner Peter Lacy said during a July 29 press conference.
Lacy also addressed adjustments to school and work zone infractions.
“The intent of these changes is to keep Indiana roads safe for motorists as well as students and road construction workers,” Lacy said.
Indiana hands-free driving law
HEA 1070 became law in July 2020. Law enforcement officers initially focused on issuing citations and warnings to prioritize the public learning about the hands-free law, Indiana State Police Capt. Ron Galaviz said at the press conference.
“In the first year alone, law enforcement statewide counted almost 16,000 combined citations and warnings for violation of this law,” said Galaviz, chief public information officer for the ISP. “That means that law enforcement had 16,000 opportunities to have conversations with the motoring public.”
Lacy said he encourages people to use hands-free technology or a Bluetooth adapter in their vehicles instead of holding their device if they talk on the phone, follow directions or listen to music. The only exception to the hands-free law is when a driver needs to call 911 to report an emergency.
Gary Langston, president of the Indiana Motor Truck Association, said during the conference he is confident the law will make a difference.
“It took a long time for everybody to get used to the seat belts, and most people do (use them) now,” Langston said. “So, it might take a while, but we’re not going to give up because it’s so important.”
School and work zone infractions
With the start of the 2021-22 school and increased school bus and pedestrian traffic, Indiana drivers should take care not to drive dangerously in school zones or ignore school bus stop arms, Galaviz said.
“We should treat every school bus as if one of our own children was on that bus,” Galaviz said.
Police will monitor for stop-arm violations through Sep. 15 as part of the Stop Arm Violation Enforcement program.
“Officers from more than 200 law agencies around the state of Indiana are going to be conducting high-visibility patrols along school bus stop routes, watching for stop-arm violations and motorists driving dangerously,” Galaviz said.
Drivers will receive penalty points on their licenses for school zone infractions.
“In the past, school zone infractions accrued points like any other general speeding violation,” Lacy said. “They were assessed based on how fast the driver was exceeding the limit. Now, we have a specific offense code for school zones.”
Work zone infractions have been updated to match school zone infractions on the points table. Drivers speeding in a work zone can accumulate four to eight points, depending on how much they exceed the speed limit.
Gene Lindley, chief operating office of the James H. Drew Corp, said speed and distracted driving put construction and maintenance workers at risk.
“I urge you – please put the phone down when you’re driving,” Lindley said. “Focus on the road, not because you don’t want to get a ticket, but because it’s simply the right thing to do.”