New cell phone ban hopes to make school zones safer

Texting and talking on cell phones are known distractions for drivers, so much so that new laws are being passed all across the country and here at home.

In July, it became illegal for Indiana drivers under the age of 18 to text or use a cell phone while driving.

Now, South Bend has a new law that puts the brakes on cell phone use in school zones, no matter what your age.

“Whether you’re downloading something, text messaging, whatever you’re doing the rule of thumb is put the cell phone down. Don’t be handling it while you’re in a school zone,” says South Bend Police Captain Phil Trent.

The ban was enacted because cell phones are a dangerous distraction that people use all too often.

A national study released this week by Safe Kids USA found 1 in 10 drivers talks on a cell phone or is texting while driving through a school zone.

Safe Kids director Moira Donahue says distracted drivers exhibit driving skills similar to that of a drunk driver. “We don't know why they are doing it but we know that it is not a great combination to have children walking and drivers who aren't paying attention to the roads.”

Over a dozen states have banned texting while driving and others are considering it.

Experts say their studies show that where there are bans, kids are safer. “What we found in our study was that in states that had laws that restricted the use of cell phones and texting that their were fewer driver distractions were observed so we found there was definitely a connection between the laws and the prevalence of distracted drivers in school zones,” says Donahue.

With the new law, you can expect police to be watching, “we're already out in the school zones, at the appropriate time, so it’s not going to be a big effort to dedicate some personnel to actually enforce this ban,” says Captain Trent.

If you are pulled over, the first offense will cost you $75, the second $125 and the third $250.

The law does say it is okay to use hands free devices while driving in school zones.

But Donahue says, “the solution to this problem is really simple: they need to put down the cell phones, in fact turn them off so they're not tempted to send any text messages.”

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