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Report: Laws alone won't stop cell phone use while driving

IL Staff
February 12, 2010
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A House bill looking to ban texting while driving in Indiana on its own may not be very effective in preventing drivers from using their cell phones in the car, according to a policy brief from an Indiana University research center.

Laws regulating cell phones while driving aren't doomed to fail, but they need to be reinforced with campaigns designed for target audiences, according to Matt Nagle, a research analyst at the Center for Criminal Justice Research and author of the brief. Older drivers tend to be deterred by the threat of law enforcement, but younger drivers are more influenced by their peers, who say it's acceptable to use a cell phone while driving.

Drivers under the age of 18 already can't use a cell phone while driving in Indiana, thanks to a new ban that took effect in July 2009.

House Bill 1279, which is currently in the Senate Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedure, would make it a Class C infraction if someone sends a text or e-mail while behind the wheel, unless they are using a hands-free or voice-operated device to send the message.

The brief, "Cell phones and driving: A review of legislation, risk perception and mitigation tactics," cites several studies that show the risk of having an accident when using a cell phone while driving is much greater than for those who don't.

Nagle noted that many drivers in Indiana are often alone in their cars and research has shown those drivers are more likely to talk on their phones.

"Without publicity campaigns to highlight the risks and without enforcement to provide a punitive deterrent, drivers may be inclined to continue this driving behavior," according to the policy brief.

The brief is available online.

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