Distracted driving has always been a threat on roads and highways.

Cellphone use while driving has brought that danger to a whole new level.

Whether it’s texting, talking, reading, navigating or, heaven forbid, watching video, cellphone use while driving is a public safety hazard that cannot be ignored.

The Indiana House of Representatives passed a bill during this session of the General Assembly that would ban cellphone use while driving and impose a fine of up to $500 on violators. The 86-10 margin of passage demonstrates how seriously the proposal has been received and how strongly most lawmakers view its intentions. With such overwhelming passage in the House and backing from Gov. Eric Holcomb, the bill, HB 1070 (http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/bills/house/1070), now goes to the state Senate. It deserves strong consideration and passage there as well.

The bill reads: “A person may not hold or use a telecommunications device in the driver’s seat of a motor vehicle while the motor vehicle is in motion unless the device is used in conjunction with hands free or voice operated technology or used to call 911 to report a bona fide emergency.”

The bill’s provisions are reasonable and far from revolutionary.

A growing number of states – 20 to be exact, including Illinois – already have such a law on the books. Even Indiana addressed the issue of texting while driving several years ago when it passed a law making the practice illegal. But experts agree the texting law was difficult to enforce and didn’t confront the larger problem of cellphone usage behind the steering wheel.

Studies by transportation safety agencies underscore the wisdom of banning cellphone use while driving. Data from the National Safety Council based on statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration indicate that 2,841 people died in U.S. crashes related to distracted driving in 2018.

The good news is those numbers represent a decrease of 12 percent from 3,242 deaths the previous year as well as a third consecutive yearly decrease.

The message is clear. As more states have implemented laws governing cellphone use while driving, distracted driving fatalities have gone down nationwide.

No law is going to prevent every crash or bring an end to distracted driving. But banning cellphone use while driving can help make vehicular travel safer for everyone. It’s time for Indiana to become part of that solution.

– (Anderson) Herald Bulletin