(BEDFORD) - Indiana officials launched a new effort this week to help increase awareness about the state's recently enacted ban on texting and emailing while driving.
The law, sponsored by State Senator Travis Holdman (R-Markle), went into effect July 1, but many motorists may still not be aware of the change.
Bedford Police Assistant Chief Joe DeWees says it is a hard law to enforce, but those breaking it will be written a citation.
"Any time a driver texts and drives it's a dangerous situation," he says. "The department has written one ticket so far for the offense."
Many vehicles in the past were stopped because the drivers appeared intoxicated, DeWees says.
"Drivers would be swerving on the roadways, crossing the center lines and their speeds would not be consistent, just like a drunk driver," DeWees says
"Before the law, we would stop the vehicle and the driver would admit to texting. Now things have changed and drivers are not admitting to texting because they will be cited."
If a driver is issued a ticket for texting they will pay $114.50.
Indiana's awareness campaign is using dynamic message signs along major roads across the state to inform drivers about the ban. Approximately 50 electronic signs across the state will display "No Texting While Driving, It's the Law" and "Arrive Alive, Don't Text and Drive."
Indiana State Police records revealed that nearly 1,200 crashes last year involved cell phone use as a contributing factor. Four of those crashes resulted in death. The ISP has step up their efforts to write more citations, DeWees says.
A 2009 Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study found actively texting drivers take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds. At 55 mph, drivers can travel the length of a football field without looking at the road.
Research shows that texting-while-driving bans are effective in deterring the practice.
According to a February 2011 report from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, the use of cell phones as a contributing factor in teen crashes dropped by 72 percent - from 496 crashes to 138 - after enactment of Indiana's 2009 ban on texting while driving for teenage drivers. While the new law bans drivers of all ages from texting or emailing while driving, they can still use hands-free or voice-operated devices to send messages and make phone calls.
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