INDIANAPOLIS — As a 12-year-old IPS student recovers after being hit by a motorist on her way to school, Indiana law enforcement agencies are cracking down on reckless driving and bad habits behind the wheel.
Although the student is expected to be back in class soon, the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute says reckless driving and deadly traffic incidents are on the rise.
"Last year we saw more fatalities from a traffic safety perspective than we've had in decades," said Devon McDonald, executive director of The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. "We're seeing a pretty large increase in reckless driving behaviors, or dangerous driving."
It's a harsh reality for the Hoosier state and one too many instances that wreak havoc on the community.
"We have seen where people are just disobeying traffic laws. Running the lights, they are still texting and, on their phone while they are operating, not paying attention to the road," said IMPD Sgt. Vincent Stewart.
"Quite frankly it's this, it's this," Stewart said while motioning toward his phone. "It's the cell phone that people are so involved in."
McDonald noted the federal government has taken some initiatives to address reckless driving behaviors.
In 2020, Indiana passed the hands-free driving law — but it hasn't completely solved the problem.
"People somehow know how to .... I don't want to say beat the system, but a way to beat the system," said Sgt. Stewart.
Last year, The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute released millions of dollars in federal grants to help curb reckless driving. IMPD was one of the departments to receive funding.
Stewart said it's about more than just ticketing drivers and going a step further to educate people to correct their behavior.
"Pay attention to the road, be focused. That way it not only saves your life, but it saves other people's lives," said Stewart.
McDonald said millions of dollars in federal grants are shared between law enforcement agencies across the state to curb reckless driving. That money funds overtime patrols, and in turn, provides more support for checkpoints and the "zero tolerance" initiative.
Indiana Public Schools officials are talking about making safety changes while IMPD searches for the person who hit the student Tuesday morning and took off. People familiar with the area said reckless and distracted drivers are a big problem.
"That could have been my brother, but we drop him off and pick up him at the gas station, but he could have easily been hit just walking across the street because drivers don't pay attention," said Abrial Certa whose brother attends Northwest Middle School.
An IPS school board commissioner said the district and community partners will need to look at walking routes and lighting in the area.
Investigators have not released a description of the vehicle involved in the hit and run. They're asking anyone with information to reach out to IMPD or Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana.