Indiana first enacted its ban on texting while driving almost exactly one year ago. Since that time it has been illegal for anyone operating a motor vehicle to send or read text messages while behind the wheel. This has hardly put a dent in the number of drivers who do text behind the wheel. During my daily commute (I live in central Indiana) I see countless drivers staring down at their laps, obviously using their smartphone while steering with their knees on Interstate 69, a major north-south corridor.
The problem stems from the wording of the new Indiana law which is rather vague and does nothing to empower police to investigate whether or not a driver was texting behind the wheel. The law prohibits drivers from using cell phones to type, transmit or read a text message or email, however, police are not allowed to confiscate devices to determine compliance. Also, since it is acceptable to use the device to make calls, obtain GPS coordinates or surf the Internet, police have a tough time knowing exactly what the driver is doing and can’t just force them to admit whether or not they were texting.
In many states, New York and California for example, police are empowered to make stops when they believe a driver might be engaged in texting (of course their laws prevent any use of handheld devices for any reason) and they are permitted to confiscate devices to check and see exactly what the driver was doing. This means drivers can’t just put the device in their lap and cruise along, flaunting the law with impunity.