Politics

Indiana lawmaker's bill calls for hands-free driving, construction zone cameras

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) -- Making it illegal to hold your cell phone while you drive and catching speeders in construction zones.

A state lawmaker hopes to accomplish both with a new law.

State Rep. Jim Pressel, a Republican from Rolling Prairie, said there are some moving parts in his bill, but he wants to get the conversation started.

"Distracted driving is a huge problem," Pressel said.

Which is why Pressel is working on a bill that would make it illegal to have your device in your hand while driving.

"We need to come up with a hands-free solution," Pressel explained. "So, it's Bluetooth. So you could still use your phone. If you have texting that's available through an app and you can talk without actually having your hand on the device, it helps."

He points to a 2015 State Farm study where 30 percent of people surveyed admitted they're on the phone while driving.

"They're not just texting." Pressel said. "They're surfing the web, they're on Facebook. They're using the phone and they're not paying attention to what they're doing." 

He said Georgia passed a similar bill last year and says they've seen an 11 percent drop in distracted driving crashes in just three months. Pressel said It's already illegal to text and drive in Indiana, but he says that's really hard to enforce.

"You could be on Facebook, legally, you just can't be texting at the time," Pressel said. "This would address that." 

Pressel's bill also calls for putting speed cameras in construction zones. 

"What I want to do is protect those workers," he explained.

According to Pressel, 15 construction workers were killed in construction zones this year. 

"We just lost another individual a few weeks ago on 31. It's unfortunate." Pressel said. "Distracted driving, I believe, plays a part of it, but we can't get people to slow down." 

The cameras would go in active construction zones on state highways and interstates.

"It would have the geographic location with GPS," said Pressel. "We would know exactly where you were at. We'd know at what speed, at what time. It gets a picture of your license plate." 

Pressel admits he's getting some pushback from people who have privacy concerns about cameras.

"Only because do you have a reasonable expectation of privacy if you and I are driving together in a car?" Pressel said.

Pressel's bill covers a few areas. One of them is cameras on school bus stop arms.

Pressel said 15,000 Indiana school bus drivers report an average of about 3,000 people who blow by those school bus stop arms every day.

"We need to address that problem. What I also found out is schools have the ability to do that right now through administrative code, through the Department of Education. What this may do, will be part of codifying that and try to figure out how does the cost get transferred?" Pressel explained. "I talked a little bit about companies that may be willing to partner for a share of any kind of revenue, that's an option. If a school can afford any of this on their own, they can do that right now."​​​​​​​

Presell says there's still quite a bit of work to be done. 


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