Holcomb Calls for Ban on Phone Use While Driving
(TERRE HAUTE, Ind.) - Cell phones, smoking, and teachers are on Governor Holcomb's legislative agenda for 2020:
Holcomb will ask legislators to ban cell phone use while driving. Indiana already has a law against texting while driving, but Holcomb says it's unenforceable -- it's too hard to prove what a driver was doing with his phone. He'll ask for a law prohibiting any use of electronic devices unless it's hands-free.
Holcomb says accidents are three-and-a-half times more likely when the driver is using an electronic device. The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute says one in 10 crashes blamed on distracted driving involve electronics.
20 other states ban cell phone use at the wheel, and Holcomb says they've seen a noticeable effect on traffic safety. Holcomb says he'll also seek stepped-up enforcement of work zone speed limits. He says that could include using cameras to catch speeders.
Holcomb's also calling for repeal of a 15-hour externship requirement for teachers to learn about local businesses. Teachers have blasted the requirement as unnecessary and a distraction from their classroom duties. Republican legislative leaders have said the law needs tweaking, but had defended the overall idea as recently as last month, arguing teachers are in the best position to know their students' skill sets and need to stay up to date on jobs which may match them.
Holcomb says the law was well-intended, but says teachers shouldn't be the first point of contact for businesses. He says local Chambers of Commerce and other business groups should be taking the lead in advising school districts what skills they need, with the schools passing that information on to teachers.
And Holcomb is joniing House Republicans in backing an increase in the legal age to buy traditional or electronic cigarettes, after staying out of that debate in 2019. Holcomb says he's "horrified" at studies showing one in five Indiana high school students and one in 20 middle schoolers are already vaping. He says teenage vaping, and the likelihood teenagers will transition to smoking, represents a significant health issue.
The governor appeared to open the door to raising cigarette taxes or imposing a tax on e-cigarettes, though without committing to the idea explicitly. Holcomb says smoking and vaping will need to be addressed further in the legislature's budget session in 2021, but says raising the age is a step legislators can take right away.
Gov. Eric Holcomb (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC(