TERRE HAUTE —
Behind u n car, txtn wile drvng! lol :)
It’s been more than a year since a change to Indiana’s distracted driving law made it unlawful to type, send or read a text message while driving.
But that hasn’t stopped some folks from texting away while they’re behind the wheel.
For example: Detective Julia Dierdorf of the Terre Police Department said she was following a car on 13th Street recently when she saw that car come “centimeters away” from causing a huge chain reaction accident. The driver swerved her vehicle into the oncoming lane; fortunately, no other traffic was there.
Dierdorf pulled over the driver of that car and asked the shaken motorist what was going on.
“I said, you just about caused a six-car accident,” Detective Dierdorf recalled. “She said she was texting while driving. She admitted it, so I wrote the ticket. I probably couldn’t have proved it, but she admitted it.”
That ticket was just one of nine citations written by area police in Vigo County since Jan. 1.
According to the Terre Haute City Court Clerk’s Office, which processes all traffic citations written by all police agencies in Vigo County, THPD officers wrote seven of the distracted driving tickets while Indiana State Police troopers wrote the other two.
In another instance this summer, State Police Sgt. Joe Watts said he pulled his vehicle alongside a southbound vehicle stopped on Third Street at the Locust Street stoplight. Watts said he saw the driver to his right texting on her phone while they were stopped, which is legal while a vehicle is not in motion.
However, when the light turned green, the motorist took off — still texting.
“She didn’t put her phone down,” Watts said. “I rolled my window down and tried to get her attention. Nothing. She just kept driving and texting, all the way up the overpass and down the other side, never looking to the right or the left.”
Watts said the driver had a slide phone that she held with both hands. Her palms were perched on top of the steering wheel to guide the vehicle, while her thumbs were busy punching letters on the keyboard.
When the motorist’s car got to the bottom of the overpass, Watts said, he pulled in behind it and turned on his red lights to make a traffic stop. At first, the driver did not see him, but by the time she stopped, she had put the phone down.
Watts said the woman repeatedly denied that she had been texting while driving, saying that she had been checking voicemail and lighting a cigarette.
“I could see her clearly. There was no question about it,” the veteran trooper said.
And what made the driver’s denial worse, Watts said, was that a 12-year-old boy was in front seat during the texting and the traffic stop.
“I told her, by the way, you’re setting a bad example to be lying in front of a child,” he said. And he wrote the driver a traffic ticket.
The class-C infraction is punishable by up to a $500 fine under state law, but on a first-time offense, it usually amounts to about a $170 fine in Vigo County.
Watts said he has noticed that the law has had some effect on motorists during the past year.
“Mostly when they see our cars, they put the phone down,” he said.
But he has also noticed a lot of people looking down at something inside the car while they are driving.
“You see people looking down, but you never see a phone. Their head goes down-up-down-up, and they’re probably texting. But if I don’t see a phone, I can’t stop them.”
Statewide, more than 400 texting citations have been entered into the state’s electronic citations system between July 1, 2011 — when the law took effect — and Aug. 13, 2012. That number is considered conservatively low, however, since not all communities enter their citations into the electronic system.
A look at ISP numbers statewide from July 2011 through July 2012 shows that troopers wrote 171 tickets for texting while driving, and issued 150 warning tickets, for a total of 321 warnings and citations.
The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute has partnered with Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and AT&T to raise awareness about the dangers of texting while driving.
A statewide campaign to educate teen drivers about the dangers of texting while driving features events in five communities, where students can use a driving simulator to learn firsthand about the consequences of distracted driving. The campaign comes to Terre Haute on Sept. 25, with time and location to be announced.
Zoeller supported the ban on texting while driving that was passed by the Legislature.
“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 stated in the announcement issued last week on the campaign. “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, young drivers must recognize there are far worse consequences to texting and driving than being pulled over and getting a ticket — potentially fatal consequences.”
Studies show that 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 younger than 18, no use of personal communication devices such as cell phones and pagers is allowed while the vehicle is in motion.
According to the National Safety Council, more than 100,000 crashes per year are linked to drivers reading or sending text messages.
AT&T has launched a campaign to get Americans to pledge not to text while driving, and other wireless providers also have public awareness efforts on the issue. Some smartphone applications are available to disable a cell phone when a vehicle is moving more than 10 mph, and some newer phones come with pre-loaded no-text-and-drive technology already installed.
In April, AT&T conducted a national online survey among 1,200 teenagers age 15 to 19 about their driving and texting habits. The survey found that 97 percent said texting while driving is dangerous, and 75 percent said it was very dangerous.
Only 43 percent of the teens surveyed admitted to texting while driving themselves, but 75 percent of the teens said it is common among their friends to text and drive.
Also, 73 percent of teens admitted to glancing at their phone while stopped at a red light, and 61 percent admitted to glancing at their phone while driving.
Texting ranks as the No. 1 mode of communication among teens, and those between ages 12 and 17 text an average of 60 times per day.
For a look at the AT&T survey about teen driving and texting, go online to www.att.com/Common/about_us/txting_driving/att_teen_survey_executive.pdf.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.
Statewide campaign to educate teens about dangers of texting while driving comes to Terre Haute on Sept. 25
TERRE HAUTE —
- Local & Bistate
For Piper: Annual ‘Rush the Punter’ event dedicated to Dixie Bee student who died Wednesday after a short illness
Steve Weatherford’s “Rush the Punter” fundraiser at Fairbanks Park on Saturday was dedicated to a little girl who lost her life unexpectedly to pneumonia.
Vigo schools prepare to tighten belts
State funding for the Vigo County School Corp. will remain “pretty flat” for the next two years, said Donna Wilson, chief financial officer.
Veterans take to the trees
Cristal Bednar took photos of her husband, Justin, as he laboriously climbed his way up a “Dangle-Duo” to get to a zipline at Indiana State University’s Sycamore Outdoor Center.
Property owner seeks halt to Hulman Lake dam project
A Terre Haute property owner is seeking an injunction that would at least temporarily halt the city’s work on the Hulman Lake dam project.
Tornado veterans balance preparedness, practicality
Few things in nature are less predictable than a tornado. They can form quickly. They strike weirdly, leveling one building while leaving its neighbor untouched. They can fling a car a half-mile and turn a piece of lumber into a wall-piercing missile.
ISU unveils interactive Bayh Family Legacy Wall at school
A who’s who of Indiana Democrats paid tribute to Evan Bayh and several generations of the Bayh family Friday during a dedication of a new interactive display at Indiana State University.
Can you smell me now?
A contraband cell phone has been discovered by the Vigo County Jail’s youngest and most unique officer.
GIVING BACK: Steve Weatherford buys shoes for kids day before charity run
Terre Haute’s Steve Weatherford, punter for the 2012 Super Bowl champion New York Giants, showed once again his generosity Friday by donating new athletic shoes to more than two dozen Vigo County kids.
N.Y. Giants honor Weatherford as ‘Man of the Year’
Dan Tanoos, superintendent of Vigo County schools, remembers the first time he saw Steve Weatherford as a freshman at Terre Haute North Vigo High School.
Sunday recital at The Woods
A recital featuring songs from well-known composers is at 7 p.m. Sunday in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
Police investigating rash of car window shootings
Terre Haute Police are investigating a rash of shootings that have shattered car windows throughout the city.
City hospitals get passing grades for patient safety
Two Terre Haute hospitals have been ranked for patient safety by an independent organization that assesses safety, quality and affordability of healthcare for Americans.
Three from Operation Turn and Burn sentenced in federal court
Three co-conspirators in a Wabash Valley methamphetamine trafficking ring were sentenced this week to several years in federal prison.
Illinois Senate approves medical marijuana bill
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn must decide if he will sign a measure allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes after the state Senate approved legislation today.
Vigo County Jail Log: May 17, 2013
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Thursday, based on jail records.
I-70 resurfacing project will close westbound exit ramp
PUTNAM COUNTY, Ind. – The Indiana Department of Transportation announces the resurfacing project on Interstate 70 will close the westbound exit ramp at Indiana 243 beginning Wednesday May, 22 at about 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. that same day to mill and resurface the ramp.
UPDATE: Fire damages buildings in downtown Greencastle
GREENCASTLE, Ind. — Fire badly damaged several buildings today near the courthouse square in Greencastle, with flames shooting through the roofs as firefighters from several communities were called in to the central Indiana city to help.
Get outside this Memorial Day weekend
Although DNR campgrounds and cabins at state parks, state reservoirs and recreation areas are booked to capacity for Memorial Day weekend, some shelters remain available for picnics and other day-use gatherings.
Skateboarders, BMX bike riders working to improve area of city park they use
The sound of small wheels rolling across smooth concrete fills the air, accented by the clacking noise of a wooden skateboard coming to an instant stop on a metal edge before rolling on again.
Indiana State to host 2014 MVC baseball tourney
Build it… and they will come. The Missouri Valley Conference and Indiana State University made that famous line from the movie “Fields Of Dreams” reality Thursday.
Overlay recommended for 812 area code
The state agency that represents Hoosier utility customers is calling for a ten-digit solution to southern Indiana’s vanishing supply of 812 area code telephone numbers.
Elementary school saddened by student’s death
A 9-year-old Dixie Bee Elementary student died unexpectedly Wednesday evening as the result of pneumonia, said Vigo County Coroner Susan Amos on Thursday.
Vermillion CSX crossings undergoing maintenance
CSX maintenance crews are working on railroad crossings between Dana and Chrisman, Ill. this week and next, a CSX official said Thursday.
Beware of scams everywhere
Ever get a phone call in the middle of the night from a person claiming to be your grandchild, who unfortunately has been jailed in Canada and needs bail money?
INDOT to start work on Indiana 163 in Vermillion County
Maintenance crews will begin a pavement preservation project Monday on Indiana 163, between Indiana 63 and the Illinois state line west of Clinton.
Union Hospital community garden spots now available
Community gardening spots are now available at the Union Hospital Community Garden for Wabash Valley residents interested in planting and maintaining a garden but may not have the space. The garden is located west of the intersection of North Sixth Street and Seventh Avenue in Terre Haute at 1430 N. Sixth St.
Correctional officer remembered at memorial
Greene County native and Wabash Valley Correctional Facility Officer Timothy Betts was honored during a memorial ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Money donated for Dresser sculpture
100+ Women Who Care of Vigo County on Thursday awarded a $20,200 grant to Art Spaces that will help make the Paul Dresser sculpture, “A Song for Indiana,” a reality.
Powerball jackpot quickly jumps to $550 million
The Powerball jackpot jumped to $550 million on Thursday — the third largest lottery in history — as dreamers in all but the seven states where the game isn’t played snatched up tickets for the minuscule chance at a life on easy street.
School bus carrying special-needs kids rolls over
INDIANAPOLIS — A school bus carrying special-needs students rolled over today on a highway near Indianapolis, injuring a dozen people including five children, state police said.
- More Local & Bistate Headlines
- For Piper: Annual ‘Rush the Punter’ event dedicated to Dixie Bee student who died Wednesday after a short illness