TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) -- Indiana law enforcement is cracking down on distracted drivers this month. On Thursday, Apr. 8 the Lafayette, West Lafayette, Purdue University, and Battle Ground Police Departments as well as the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Department, is joining law enforcement agencies across the state in a 24-hour "enforcement campaign."
This comes as the state of Indiana is approaching a year since the enactment of the Hands-Free Law, which makes it illegal to hold a mobile device while driving.
The law enforcement campaign is called "Connect 2 Disconnect." Officers will be conducting what they're calling "highly visible patrol." The goal of this extra police presence is to get drivers to be more alert and focused on the road. They will be issuing warnings to those breaking the law.
But distracted driving doesn't just encompass using electronics behind the wheel. Adjusting the radio, grooming, and eating and drinking is also a cause for crashes. But phone use behind the wheel still tops these other distractions according to Lafayette Police Sgt. Scott Anderson.
"They've done studies and they've compared it to drunk driving," said Anderson. "People that are distracted driving, text driving, you know, they compare it to drunk driving, it's the same philosophy and it has the same effect on the roads."
He said it's not uncommon for local law enforcement to respond to distracted driving-related crashes.
"One of the biggest types of accidents that we have on the road are rear-ended accidents. You see it all the time and nine times out of ten it's somebody looking down at their phone and the light turns green and they start to pull forward and boom, they rear-end somebody," said Anderson. "Not just for this 24-hours but everybody all the time when you're driving, put your phone down, turn it off, put it on airplane mode whatever you have to do toward not distracting yourself and get from point A to point B."
According to Lafayette police, on average, people that text and drive take their attention away from the road for about five seconds.
At 55 mph, that's the equivalent of driving the full length of a football field blindfolded.
Indiana became the 22nd state in the nation to pass this hands-free driving law. Anyone caught violating it could face a Class C infraction with fines up to $500.