INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Teens, put away the cellphones when you’re behind the wheel. This isn’t driving advice, starting Wednesday, it’s the law.
It’s a law meant to save lives. The law is aimed at young drivers, those younger than 21 years old. According to TeenDriverSource.org, crashes still make up the leading cause of death in teens and crash risk is four times higher when drivers use cellphones, including hands free devices.
The new law bans any sort of telecommunication device; cellphones and blue tooth included. The only exception is for 911 calls.
16-year old Brooke Stone is enrolled in drivers education. She, like many teens, can’t wait to get her drivers license.
“I’ve been patiently waiting to get my license and I have a countdown on my phone. But, I have to get my drives done first,” said Stone.
It’s that driving practice that will prepare Brooke to hit the road, without her instructor.
“I’m a little nervous cause I don’t know what could go wrong. But I feel that I’ve had a lot of practice and experience,” said Stone.
Part of that experience includes cellphone lessons from her instructor, Dick Chew. Chew is the CEO of Drive Masters.
“We see people and we see what they are doing there, putting themselves in jeopardy. We don’t want our students to do that. So, we’re constantly talking to them about that,” said Chew.
According to police, it’s a major cause for accidents on the roadways.
“It’s not a good idea for anyone, teens or adults. They say it’s approximately five seconds off the road. Which is quite a long time to have your eyes off the road,” said Officer Kortney Burrello of the Greenwood Police Department.
Unlike the statewide ban on texting while driving, which can be difficult to detect, the ban on cellphones, authorities say, will be easier to enforce. It’s a law that Brooke is giving the green light on.
“If I want to use my phone, I won’t use it at all unless I’m stopped at a parking lot. Because I don’t want to take the risk of wrecking or getting a ticket,” said Stone.
The law also restricts who can ride with new drivers. The only passengers allowed in the vehicle with an unsupervised driver up to 21 years old for the first six months are siblings, the driver’s children, or a spouse.
Legislators are also buckling down on nighttime driving. Unsupervised teen drivers 18 and under will have to park their vehicles between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday nights into the following morning. Also, no driving is allowed between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The only exceptions for that rule – work, school activities, or a religious event.
Teen drivers might be bummed to hear about all these restrictions, but there is some good news that takes effect in July. All teens who have completed an approved drivers education course will now be eligible for their probationary license at age 16 and 90 days. The previous rule was 16 and 180 days. Those drivers also need to have completed a 50-hour supervised driving log and held a permit for at least 180 days.
In regards to the 50-hour driving log, teens under the age of 18 can now only complete that log with:
- A licensed driver education instructor who is working under the direction of a licensed driver training school
- A certified driver rehabilitation specialist recognized by the Indiana BMV whom is employed through a driver rehabilitation program
- A licensed driver at least 25 years of age AND related to the teen driver by blood, marriage or legal status
- A spouse of the teen driver whom is a licensed driver and at least 21 years of age
The teen who is operating on a driver education permit must still wait until after they have begun course training in order to begin practice driving, officials say. This law also applies to all permits issued after June 30, 2009.
Those choosing not to complete a driver education course can obtain a probationary license at the age of 16 years and 270 days.
If completing that 30-hour in-class drivers ed is an issue for you or a family member, AAA Hoosier Motor Club does offer an online class that is approved by the Indiana BMV. For information on the course called “How to Drive”, click here.