Indiana Senate passes ban on holding cellphones while driving

The Indiana Senate has approved legislation that would ban drivers from holding cellphones while operating a motor vehicle.

House Bill 1070, authored by Rep. Holli Sullivan, R-Evansville, would prohibit individuals from using a mobile device while driving unless using hands-free or voice-operated technology. Calling 911 would be an exception to the prohibition.

The legislation would replace the state’s existing ban on texting while driving, which law enforcement officials have said is not enforceable.

The issue is a top legislative priority for Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Supporters of HB 1070 have argued it would be a step forward in getting more drivers to pay attention to the road.

The bill would not restrict a driver from using a phone that is mounted on the dashboard or placed somewhere else in the vehicle, so individuals could still use phones for GPS services or to make calls through bluetooth technology or on speaker phone.

Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield, sponsored the bill in the Senate and said Indiana would join 21 other states that have similar laws.

“It’s time for us to take the next step in trying to curb this activity,” Crider said. “I’ve heard just about every excuse that might exist. … This is the right thing to do.”

The measure has gotten more support than initially expected in the Republican-controlled Indiana General Assembly after GOP leaders suggested some lawmakers had concerns about the legislation infringing on individual freedoms.

Some critics of the bill contend drivers are distracted in many other ways, such as eating while driving.

The Senate approved the bill 43-4 on Tuesday as Republican Sens. Phil Boots, Mike Young, Chip Perfect and Jean Leising voted against it.

The legislation returns to the House, where lawmakers are expected to agree with the amendment made in the Senate. The House passed a similar version of the bill 86-10 on Jan. 29.

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