squirrelheader.jpg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Indiana Adds Points Penalty To Hands-Free Driving Law, Increases For School, Work Zones

hands-free_driving2-lc.jpeg
When lawmakers passed the bill banning cell phone use while driving unless hands-free in 2020, the only penalty for the first year was a fine of up to $500. (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

Hoosiers caught violating Indiana’s hands-free driving law will now get an added penalty: points on their driving record, enough of which can lead to a suspension of their license.

State officials discussed enforcement of the law Thursday, a year after it first took effect.

When lawmakers passed the bill banning cell phone use while driving unless hands-free in 2020, the only penalty for the first year was a fine of up to $500.

Now, Bureau of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Peter Lacy said people who violate that law will have four points added to their license. Accruing 20 points within two years for any infractions gets a driver’s license suspended.

“Traveling Indiana roads is a shared endeavor that is only made safer when we are aware of the law and making good decisions behind the wheel,” Lacy said.

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues.

In the first year of the hands-free law, Indiana police wrote more than 5,000 tickets and issued more than 10,000 warnings. State Police spokesperson Ron Galaviz said police will focus more on citations than warnings going forward.

There are other changes to the state's driver's license points penalty system. Indiana has also increased the penalties for speeding in work and school zones. The minimum number of points added to a driver’s license for violating those laws is now four.

Indiana police will do increased patrols in school zones for the next month and a half as back to school season arrives.

Galaviz said law enforcement will particularly focus on school bus routes, watching for drivers who violate the school bus stop arm laws.

“Law enforcement gets to work with school buses, school corporations to determine those locations where these efforts are needed the most, where we’re seeing the most violations,” Galaviz said.

The state is also increasing awareness of work zone safety. Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe McGuinness said avoiding dangerous driving in those zones is even more important as the state sees an unprecedented amount of construction.

“In 2018, I remember saying that I come in at the time when we’re talking about a record number of construction projects going on around the state," McGuinness said. "And at that time, the record was 850. Today, 2021, we’re almost at 1,300 projects.”

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.