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Not so fast

Cell phones and driving under 21

By Jeff Terrill

Fort Wayne Reader


In Indiana, it is illegal for a driver who is under the age of 21 to drive “while using a telecommunications device,” unless the driver is using that device to call 911. The law took effect in July of 2016.

Meet Sally. Sally is a 20 year old college student who also works two different part-time jobs. Sally lives at home. She’s not a real person.

Recently, Sally’s mom asks her to pick up some tile samples from a flooring company on her way back from class. After her last class ends, Sally enters the flooring company’s address into her phone to get directions. She puts the phone in the car’s center console and follows her phone’s audible directions.

Several minutes later, Sally notices a police car with its lights on behind her. Sally pulls over to the side of the road and waits for the officer to approach. The officer informs Sally that she was driving seven miles over the speed limit. Sally explains that she’s running an errand for her mother and that she’s not familiar with this part of town. The officer kindly inquires if Sally needs help with directions.

Sally explains that she’s following her phone’s directions. She hands over her license and registration to the officer. The officer returns to his car. Several minutes later, the officer returns and advises that he’s giving Sally a warning for the speeding violation. Sally thanks the officer and explains that she will drive the speed limit.

The officer then hands Sally a ticket for her illegal use of a telecommunications device while driving. Sally informs the officer that she didn’t know it was illegal for her to use her phone for directions. Sally explains to the officer that when she first started driving that she knew she couldn’t use the phone until after her probationary driving period ended. She politely tells the officer that all of the restrictions ended when she turned 18. (There’s another law that prohibits any Indiana driver [age 21 or older] from using a phone to type, read or send a text or email. Using the phone to call 911 or using a hands free phone to send a message is permitted.)

The officer informs Sally that any use of the phone while driving is illegal due to her age – including using the phone to
play or stream music.

The officer tells Sally that she’s free to drive away. Sally thanks the officer. She turns off her phone, puts it in her glove box and starts to drive. She doesn’t know where she’s going.

Jeff Terrill is a partner/shareholder with the law firm of Arnold Terrill Anzini, P.C. Mr. Terrill represents clients accused of crimes throughout northeast Indiana. You can contact Mr. Terrill with any questions or comments at his office at 260.420.7777 or via email at jterrill@fortwaynedefense.com. Learn more about his firm at www.fortwaynedefense.com. This article expressed opinions and observations of the author, is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader. Please consult a qualified attorney with any legal questions or issues you might have. Thank you

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©2018 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.