Indiana Bans Texting While Driving. But Web Surfing While Driving Is Still OK!

The state of Indiana has officially banned texting while driving. Starting today, it is illegal to use any "telecommunications device to type, transmit or read a text message or an electronic mail message" at the same time you are driving. Individuals caught violating the texting ban face a possible $500 fine.

But don't worry. It's still legal to post comments to Hit & Run from behind the wheel. The Indy Star reports:

Activities such as searching the Internet, playing games and making a playlist on your iPod all remain legal for drivers, who are prohibited only from texting and emailing. The law was watered down after Indiana lawmakers balked at a comprehensive ban on using handheld devices behind the wheel.

"We were just not able to get that done in the legislative session," said Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, who had supported a full ban but agreed to sponsor the existing law. "This is the best that we could do," he conceded during a news conference Thursday to outline the new law.

Is there a point to passing a law that bans texting but not, say, a Facebook message or a blog post? If anything, it seems likely that banning just one form of mobile communications is likely to drive more people to attempt even more awkward, and possibly more dangerous, work-arounds. 

According to The Star's report, the Republican lawmaker behind the texting-only statute gave two reasons for focusing only on texting. First, he wanted to increase the chances that the law would pass constitutional muster. "The other challenge," he said, "is the swift evolution of technology." There's a simpler way to avoid constitutional challenges and avoid being overtaken by new technology: Don't regulate texting while driving at all! 

But what about the safety implications? Won't a texting ban make the state's roads safer? Dangerous driving is what's on the mind of one Indiana police chief: 

Bluffton Police Chief Tammy Schaffer said she routinely sees drivers sending text messages.

"We're not going to catch everybody that's texting," she said. "But maybe if we can catch a few we can make our roads a little bit safer."

Maybe. But there's empirical evidence to suggest otherwise. According to a study conducted by the Highway Loss Data Institute last year, texting bans haven't resulted in decreased vehicle crashes. And in three of the four states that HLDI studied, crash rates increased following the passage of texting bans. The working theory as to why is that once texting bans kick in, drivers simply hold their phones lower in order to avoid being seen by police, and thus avert their eyes from the road for longer periods of time. So Chief Schaffer may indeed see fewer people texting on the road thanks to the new law. But that doesn't mean they won't be doing it, or that her state's roads will be any safer. 

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  • AlmightyJB||

    I really need to stop coming here.

  • DSK||

    Know how you feel.

  • ||

    Indiana used to one of those Texas-model states -- tolerable by standards of actual freedom, and good compared to most other places in America. According to a few friends, however, it's been getting worse. Any people from Indiana here to confirm that?

  • Paul||

    There's a text messaging law gap that has to be filled.

  • tarran||

    Indiana historically has been a big bastion of Progressivism - such a big bastion that at one time the Ku Klux Klan ran the place and the Nazis used Indiana's laws as a template for some parts of the Nuremberg laws.

    If they were a freer state for a time, they are probably regressing back to their mean of authoritarianism and meddling.

  • Cabeza de Vaca ||

    Tarran,

    Are you referring to Indiana's eugenics laws?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    So it's still legal to have sexual intercourse with your telecommunications device while driving then?

  • rather||

    Be safe and hygienic: put a condom on it

  • rather||

    She's reading morning links? Hell, no. She's reading my blog ;-)

  • Rock Action ||

    That's why her eyes are wide and her face bespeaks a slight horror mixed with disgust?

  • rather||

    Well, they usually look like this
    http://www.google.com/imgres?i.....108&ty=106

  • Rock Action ||

    That is clearly the look of a woman who just found out that she will no longer be discussed at rctlfy.

  • Paul||

    Re: the alt-text.

    It looks more like she's reading one of Cavanaugh's late night posts where he's referenced himself into a corner.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Or Weiner just sent her a pic of his weiner

  • Fake R. Dean Taylor||

  • ||

    She's reacting to the cop lights in her side mirror! But that's not to say one wouldn't have the same expression while reading rather's blog. I'm sure I did, the one time I read it.

    By the way rather, happy Canada Day.

  • ||

    Is there a point to passing a law that bans texting but not, say, a Facebook message or a blog post?

    Yes, there is a point even concerning imperfect legislation.

    it seems likely that banning just one form of mobile communications is likely to drive more people to attempt even more awkward, and possibly more dangerous, work-arounds.

    Are you suggesting that due to the illegality of text messaging on the highways people will resort to tin cans and strings?

    As for the study by The Highway Loss Data Institute claiming such laws don't decrease vehicle crashes surely you could understand a bias there given the fact that the "Institute" only exists to justify auto insurance premium rates for... who exactly funds the Highway Loss Data Institute again?

  • ||

    As for the study by The Highway Loss Data Institute claiming such laws don't decrease vehicle crashes surely you could understand a bias there given the fact that the "Institute" only exists to justify auto insurance premium rates for... who exactly funds the Highway Loss Data Institute again?

    Translation: I can't actually dispute the study on the merits, nor can I demonstrate that its findings were affected by bias.

  • Apogee||

    Why exactly would auto insurance companies be against legislation that gives them a reason to charge higher rates and refuse payout?

  • adam||

    Umm, you have the bias ass backwards. Auto insurance companies lobby for laws that make the roads/cars safer because it helps their bottom line.

  • hazeeran||

    Also no seat belt.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    I'll cop to having posted on websites while driving over 100 MPH on a highway.

    I'm pretty sure I wasn't wearing a seat belt, either.

  • West Texas||

    The benefit of technology advancing is that it gives busybodies even more ways to regulate our behavior. Yay!

    Don't forget Texas residents, this weekend is NO REFUSAL WEEKEND! If you've been drinking and a cop happens to capriciously pull you over for, say, an expired inspection sticker, YOU TOO can have your 5th (and 4th) Amendment rights trounced on and blood drawn at the traffic stop!

    Yay for the temperence movement!

  • Philosoraptor||

    Um, then, you know

    get your car inspected like you have to

    chump

  • Paul||

    By the way, it's legal in Washington State to talk on your cell phone without a hands-free device, as long as you hold it away from your face-- a-la a speaker phone.

    For real.

  • ||

    I did not know that, yet I was already doing it anyway to avoid a ticket. Awesome.

  • ||

    Why not make the penalties for smashing your car into people and things severe and certain, instead of trying to regulate away every possible form of bad driving?

  • Apogee||

    Even better, why not actually train people to drive, as opposed to handing out licenses like candy?

  • Hyperion||

    When I lived there, and yes I hate to admit that I lived there, damnit, just forget that. But, anyway, they passed the seat belt law. If I remember correctly, if you were driving a passenger car, you had to wear the seat belt. If you were in a pick-up truck, you were exempt. Since 99.9% of all motorists drove pick-ups it didn't have much effect. Of course, the tornadoes blowing your pick-up and trailer off the face of the earth was a problem. If they would have just learned from progressives and passed a tornado tax instead...

  • Skr||

    In guessing google maps was the sticky wicket for the full ban.

    On another note, why did my iPod try to autocorrect the word ban as bam?

  • ||

    This law is also probably unenforceable, as someone who's texting while driving can just switch to the web browser and load Facebook onto their phone while they're being pulled over.

  • ||

    And of course the studies you mention only show that texting bans don't work due to unintended consequences, not that texting while driving isn't dangerous.

  • db||

    They will just subpoena your cell phone records and then add on charges of obstruction of justice and who knows what. And no, they won't care a whit that they've multiplied the cost of the prosecution beyond reason and diverted police and court resources from more important activities. That what the next federal police funding grant is for--paying for basic police services that were deferred in favor of bullshit like this.

    What's that? Your house was robbed? The manager at Best Buy says he's seeing a rash of customers coming in to replace their tvs and stereos that have been stolen from their homes? That's not a police problem. That's your insurance company's problem. Now excuse us; we have to go set up our big DUI checkpoint, which is located on the outbound lane of the road leading out of our dry town. Later, peon!

  • Edwin||

    Laws like this are the most common sense and basic and clearly legitimate laws around - there is no right to significantly endanger other people. You people are asses for whining about this shit

    then again, you guys are also so stuypid you think drunk driving should be legalized

  • ||

    Fortunately, it's still legal to read the newspaper while driving in Indiana.

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