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New state laws ban drivers holding phones, hike marriage age

Using a handheld cellphone while driving will become illegal on Indiana roads under a new state law taking effect this week.

Posted: Jun 30, 2020 2:36 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Using a handheld cellphone while driving will become illegal on Indiana roads under a new state law taking effect this week.

The move aimed at combating distracted driving was among numerous laws going onto the books Wednesday after being approved by the state Legislature this year.

Other new laws include tougher penalties on stores for selling smoking or vaping products to anyone younger than 21 years, and a requirement that anyone younger than 18 obtain a judge’s permission before getting married.

CELLPHONE BAN

Indiana is joining more than 20 other states in prohibiting drivers from holding or using a handheld mobile device while operating a moving vehicle.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb encouraged legislators to approve the ban, arguing that distracted driving increases the risk of a crash by more than 3½ times. It was to blame in at least 860 injury crashes and 48 crashes with deaths across Indiana last year, according to state police.

The new law allows cellphone use by drivers only with hands-free or voice-operated technology, except in emergencies. It broadens a previous state ban on texting while driving that officials found unenforceable and didn’t ban actions such as emailing or using Snapchat, Twitter and other apps.

Violators can be fined up to $500 and they could lose their driver’s license for repeat violations. But motorists who are ticketed before July 1, 2021, will not receive points on their license, which can lead to license suspension.

CIGARETTE SALES

A new law doubles the fines stores can face for selling tobacco or vaping products to anyone younger than 21 years old. The penalties, which were last increased a decade ago, will grow until a third violation within a year would carry a maximum $2,000 fine.

Supporters said the tougher penalties will help reduce Indiana’s high smoking rates by making it more difficult for youths to obtain tobacco-related items such as cigarettes or e-cigarette liquids.

The additional penalties were part of a bill increasing Indiana’s minimum age for smoking and vaping from 18 to 21 to conform with a new federal law. But the Republican-sponsored measure didn’t include any additional taxes on cigarettes or regulations on vaping liquids as sought by health advocates.

Indiana’s 21.8% smoking rate among adults was the 7th highest in the country for 2017, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

MARRIAGE AGE

Indiana’s new marriage age law replaces the previous law allowing those as young as 15 to marry if they have parental consent. The new law only allows 16- or 17-year-olds to marry someone no more than four years older after obtaining approval from a juvenile court judge.

Legislators heard during a committee meeting from women who were 15 or 16 when their parents forced them to marry men who had raped or molested them and then faced more abuse before being able to escape the relationship.

Republican Rep. Karen Engleman of Georgetown, the law’s sponsor, cited concerns that girls who marry before 18 are at greater risk of becoming victims of sexual and domestic violence, along with higher poverty and high school dropout rates.

GASOLINE TAX HIKE

The state gasoline tax will go up by a penny to 31 cents per gallon on Wednesday. That is the maximum increase allowed under a 2017 law under which the tax was increased by 18 cents a gallon to 28 cents to help pay for road projects.

The tax has gone up automatically each year since then as an inflationary adjustment.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1001697

Reported Deaths: 16370
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1349142114
Lake660941157
Allen57517796
Hamilton46157464
St. Joseph44155608
Elkhart35752508
Vanderburgh32119478
Tippecanoe27824258
Johnson24961444
Hendricks23767355
Porter22833364
Madison18662406
Clark18449252
Vigo17379302
Monroe15205198
LaPorte15077250
Delaware15006260
Howard14647288
Kosciusko12235147
Hancock11639175
Bartholomew11517179
Warrick11264189
Floyd11040214
Wayne10918252
Grant10000218
Morgan9427176
Boone8874116
Dubois8240131
Dearborn818193
Henry8154152
Noble7985106
Marshall7854134
Cass7510120
Lawrence7414170
Shelby7160117
Jackson694688
Gibson6534113
Harrison645891
Huntington635399
Knox6299106
DeKalb627699
Montgomery6214109
Miami590598
Putnam576278
Clinton571371
Whitley561555
Steuben557075
Wabash5289103
Jasper526677
Jefferson507596
Ripley496886
Adams476875
Daviess4632113
Scott436672
Greene422496
Wells421788
Clay420660
White416964
Decatur4139101
Fayette404987
Jennings385260
Posey375343
LaGrange354978
Washington354049
Randolph342599
Spencer337642
Fountain332658
Sullivan327452
Starke314069
Owen312770
Fulton307767
Orange292063
Jay282245
Perry264752
Franklin264542
Carroll259832
Rush259532
Vermillion256454
Parke230026
Pike228143
Tipton227059
Blackford191141
Pulaski182056
Crawford158823
Newton156648
Benton150217
Brown145247
Martin137419
Switzerland134311
Warren120616
Union106916
Ohio84212
Unassigned0538

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