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Indiana, AT&T partner to raise texting and driving awareness

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute has announced that it is partnering with Attorney General Greg Zoeller and AT&T to raise awareness about the dangers of texting while driving.

In 2011, the Indiana General Assembly passed House Enrolled Act 1129 making the practice of texting while driving illegal.

"Texting while driving is not only unsafe, it's against the law," said Indiana Criminal Justice Institute Traffic Safety Division Director Ryan Klitzsch. "This legislation has already saved lives and is an important step in our efforts to ensure the safety of all Hoosier motorists."

ICJI announced a series of five events around the state to educate teen drivers about the dangers of texting while driving. At each event, students will have the opportunity to use a driving simulator to learn firsthand the consequences of distracted driving.

The events coincide with AT&T's renewed national awareness campaign focused on "No Text On Board -- Pledge Day" across the country.

On Sept. 19, AT&T will urge all Americans to pledge not to text and drive, and to join the campaign by spreading the word.

Indiana events will be held in the following cities with more details to be released on the time and location:

* Aug. 23 -- Indianapolis

* Sept. 14 -- Muncie

* Sept. 18 -- West Lafayette

* Sept. 25 -- Terre Haute

* Oct. 2 -- South Bend

Attorney General Greg Zoeller supported the ban on texting while driving passed by the legislature and will participate in select events.

"Typing messages is a needless distraction while trying to steer two tons of metal on wheels, and a threat to everyone else on the road," Zoeller said. "By texting while driving, you endanger yourself and others, so this initiative is not about individual rights but instead the state's duty to protect the public on our highways.

"Now that school is back in session," he continued,

"young drivers must recognize there are far worse consequences to texting and driving than being pulled over and getting a ticket -- potentially fatal consequences."

Texting ranks as the number one mode of communication among teens, and those between the ages of 12 and 17 text 60 times a day on average -- up from 50 in 2009. This becomes dangerous when teens hit the road with their phones since those who send text messages while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a crash.

Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent, at 55 mph, of driving the length of a football field, blind.

For Indiana drivers under 18, no use of personal communication devices such as cell phones and pagers is allowed while the vehicle is in motion.

"Texting while driving is foolhardy at best and lethal at worst," said AT&T Indiana President George S. Fleetwood. "Thanks to the leadership of the Indiana General Assembly, Hoosiers are better protected.

"And thanks to the support of Attorney General Greg Zoeller and the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, we are better able to spread the message that when it comes to texting and driving, it can wait."

Texting and driving is a widespread, frequent and potentially fatal mistake made by too many Americans when they're in the driver's seat. A recent AT&T survey found that 97 percent of teens say they know that texting is dangerous. But in that same survey, 43 percent admitted to texting while driving themselves -- and we know underreporting is an issue.

The survey also found:

* 75 percent of teens surveyed say that texting while driving is "common" among their friends;

* Almost all teens (89 percent) expect a reply to a text or email within five minutes or less;

* And, texting is a learned behavior: 77 percent of teens report seeing their parents text while driving.

Governor Mitch Daniels signed House Bill 1129 into law on May 10, 2011. The law bans texting for drivers of all ages while the vehicle is in motion. For drivers over 18, it allows the use of global positioning devices and reading, selecting or entering a telephone number or name for the purpose of making a phone call.

Texting is allowed only to report illegal activity or to request medical or emergency aid.

Fines for Hoosiers began July 1, 2011, for anyone caught texting while driving and for those under 18 who use a cell phone while driving. Violators are liable for fines of $25 on a first offense and $50 on each subsequent offense, plus court costs.

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