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Howard County Sheriff’s Office ramps up distracted driving enforcement initiative

Howard County launches distracted driving enforcement campaign

KOKOMO, Ind. (WISH) — Just in time for National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Howard County Sheriff’s Office will aggressively target drivers who violate Indiana’s “Hands-Free” law.

On July 1, 2020, Indiana became the 22nd state mandating drivers use hands-free devices or not use their phone at all behind the wheel.

Sergeant Justin Markley said the agency received a $40,000 federal grant to help pay overtime for deputies that are enforcing this law.

“We’re not only encouraging people during this enforcement, but to educate people on the importance of hands-free driving, and using those Bluetooth devices,” said Markley.

Those who are cited for violating the hands-free law get hit with a Class C infraction that comes with up to a $500 fine and points on their license. Markley said distracted driving doesn’t just come in the form of texting. He’s seen some startling incidents of distracted driving.

“I would say eating a salad, believe it or not, with a fork and knife,” said Markley. “Driving with their knee and trying to eat their salad driving down the road.”

3,308 lives were lost in 2022 due to distracted driving related accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Statistics show the average text takes a driver’s attention away from the road for five seconds, about the equivalent to driving a full football field. Markley said those five seconds could cause a lifetime of regret for someone who causes a deadly crash.

“Man, I just looked down at my phone and didn’t realize they were stopped or whatever the case may be, and someone is either killed or tragically killed or seriously injured in a crash, and it’s from an honest mistake,” said Markley.

Prior to the hands free law, Indiana attempted to ban texting while driving in 2011, but a court ruled the law was too narrowly written and could not be enforced.