House Bill 1070 passed through the Indiana State Senate on March 18, 2020, and is on its way to the governor’s desk for an expected signature. The bill expands the restrictions on the use of a handheld device while operating a motor vehicle. 

The previous 2011 distracted driving law prohibited reading, writing or sending text messages while driving. The new law requires drivers to keep cellphones out of their hands for any purpose other than making an emergency 911 call. 

What this means for Indiana drivers 

The intent of the HB-1070 law is clear. Distracted driving caused 48 fatalities and 860 vehicle-related injuries in 2019, according to the Indiana State Police. More than half of U.S. drivers responding to a 2015 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey admitted that they talk on their cellphones while driving. Strict hands-free driving enforcement in the Hoosier State could help to reduce roadway injuries and fatalities. 

The NHTSA notes that distracted driving can take many forms and may include anything that can take a driver’s attention away from the road. Electronic devices are the primary contributors, although fatalities and life-altering injuries could also result from a driver simply reaching for a cup of coffee. Indiana’s HB-1070, however, provides law enforcement with the ability to pull over any motorist observed holding an electronic device, even if held close to the ear. 

What distracted driving means for accident victims 

Regardless of how well a motorist maintains his or her focus on the road, other drivers may not always do the same. Roadway accidents can occur unexpectedly and involve even the most careful drivers. 

Another driver’s negligent use of a hand-held device may result in his or her incurring the liability for any injuries or deaths that occur. If the individual was driving a commercial vehicle, an employer could also share responsibility for the harm caused. 

An assignment of liability may depend on a driver’s state of mind at the time an accident occurred. Proving that distracted driving was a cause of an accident could require accessing an individual’s cellphone records or reviewing the testimony of witnesses.