Senator Holdman has introduced SB 18 which is designed to curb the scourge de jour – texting while driving. I should probably create a “ripped from the headlines” legislative category. Every year, it seems there is an issue or two that captures the media’s attention for awhile, thereby making its way into a legislative agenda.
In this bill, a new section is added to IC 9-21-8 which says “A person may not use a telecommunications device to transmit a text message or electronic mail message while operating a moving motor vehicle.”
This bill highlights some of the difficulties in drafting legislation. Sometimes it’s tough to keep up with technology. The bill changes the definition of “telecommunications device” to include “The term includes a: (1) wireless telephone; (2) personal digital assistant; (3) pager; or (4) text messaging device.” But, at times, you’ll find the difficulty of keeping up with new technology is really a matter of confusing the bottle with the wine. Often enough, even if the drafter recognizes this problem, there isn’t much to be done if the courts or the legislator are focused on the bottle.
In this case, the problem being addressed is the fact that the driver isn’t paying attention to the road. Whether the attention is focused on a text message, a cell phone, a book, a CD case, a map, or a screaming child isn’t terribly important in terms of the actual risk of driving while not paying attention. But, the way the politics are set up and probably the way the case law has developed, simply attempting to penalize “driving while distracted” probably would not be effective, even though that’s the real problem.