Ban on drivers using handheld phones clears Indiana House

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The Indiana House endorsed a proposal Wednesday that would ban motorists from using handheld cellphones, a step supporters say is aimed at combating distracted driving.

House members voted 86-10 in favor of the bill that only permits cellphone use with hands-free or voice-operated technology, except in emergencies. The bill would broaden the state’s current ban on texting while driving that officials have said is unenforceable and doesn’t include actions such as emailing, using apps such as Snapchat or viewing videos.

Twenty-one other states already have similar bans. Supporters compared it to the adoption of seat belt laws and said that while a cellphone ban might be difficult to enforce it does send a message about what is acceptable.

“You can see more heads looking down at their phones than you can see looking at the road ahead of them,” said Republican Rep. Holli Sullivan of Evansville, the bill’s sponsor.

Distracted driving was to blame in at least 860 injury crashes and 48 crashes with deaths across Indiana last year, according to state police.

The proposal, which has Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s support, now goes to the Senate for consideration. The bill would make violations a ticketed infraction with a maximum $500 fine.

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