July 2, 2015
“Don’t text and drive” is a frequently issued warning for drivers of all ages. Thanks to changes in the Indiana legislature, “Don’t talk and drive” will become the new phrase for Indiana drivers younger than age 21.
It is now illegal for drivers younger than 21 to use any sort of telecommunications device while driving, including using hands-free devices such as Bluetooth. The exception to this rule is calling 911 for emergencies.
Crawfordsville police chief Mike Norman believes the new law will enhance driver safety. He said that while the devices have changed, driver distraction has always been an issue.
“Before cell phones were such a popular issue, it was radios,” he said. “Teenagers messing with the radios. It became more prevalent with the use of any kind of device. I totally understand it, I think it’s a good idea. It’ll keep our teenagers safer and focused.”
He said there will be a grace period while drivers become aware of the new law.
“With any new law or rule that comes into play, we give it a little break-in time, I guess you could call it,” Norman said. “People do need to be aware of it. Initially, you won’t be cited. But in a reasonable amount of time, if we continue to see driving habits where this is the issue, citations will be issued accordingly.”
Fourteen states have bans on the use of handheld devices while driving, regardless of age. Norman would not be surprised if Indiana was added to that list in the future.
“I’d imagine they will look at the statistics this produces after they’ve tried this law for a period of time,” he said. “It would not surprise me.”
Also new to the books is a $500 fine for drivers who impede traffic in the left lane of highways with slow driving. Norman does not foresee this law having a large impact on the area, with the potential exception being U.S. 231N.
“I don’t think it’s going to cause us too much concern,” he said. “There again if it does, we’ll handle it accordingly. They’ll have that amount of time to understand and learn what the laws are.”
Other changes that impact young drivers include:
• Within the first six months of driving, the only passengers allowed in the car with a new driver are individuals 25 or older, parents, siblings or a spouse.
• Drivers 18 and younger will not be allowed to drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 1 a.m. through 5 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Exceptions are for work or school-related travel and religious events.
• Teenagers who take driver’s education can get their license at 16 years and 90 days, rather than 16 years and 180 days. Allen Brown, owner and instructor at AB Driver’s Training in Crawfordsville, thinks the change will be positive.
Individuals who do not take driver’s education can get their license at 16 years and 270 days.