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Runners, police urge drivers to put the phone down, decrease distracted driving

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Posted at 5:00 AM, Nov 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-10 13:39:49-05

INDIANAPOLIS — A local runner has had many close calls this year as she’s been outside logging miles on the roadways. She told WRTV she often sees the tops of drivers’ heads while looking down at their phones and has nearly been hit by distracted drivers.

There are tons of distractions in the car. Whether it’s looking at your phone to change a song, looking at your GPS, or eating on the go, Indiana State Police encourages drivers to put everything down and pay attention to the most important thing: making sure you and everyone around you are safe on the roadways.

“Lots of miles outside, lots of long runs early and late and then sometimes even middle of the day, and what I'm finding pretty regularly is people are either incredible with runners when they're driving or they're not,” Kaity Wachtel, an avid runner, said.

Wachtel completed two marathons in the last two months and has been coaching others along the way, during her training she says she’s had several near misses.

“It’s unnerving because, obviously, a car is going to win when it’s a car versus a person,” Wachtel said. “One of my narrow misses, I was coming across and traffic was coming to my direction and I had planted in my foot and turned put my hands up and he was putting his cellphone down. So that could have been a much worse scenario for me and I know I have friends even on the Monon who have been nearly missed or hit by a car because somebody just wasn't paying attention.”

On July 1, 2020, Indiana’s hands-free law was enacted, meaning Hoosiers should no longer be using their phones while driving.

“I think Hoosiers are doing a pretty good job with the law we don't see as much as we used to and for us that's promising,” Sgt. John Perrine with the Indiana State Police said.

He told WRTV since the law was put in place, Indiana State Police have given 4,293 warnings and issued 1,128 citations.

“For us, for the first six months of the law we mostly wrote warnings just use it as an educational point,” Perrine said.

Meanwhile, in Marion County, Indiana’s largest county, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department has issued 2,391 citations.

“We know that there are a lot of people that use the roads for other things than driving. Exercise, running, bicycling, things like that. So, it's important to watch out for those, and even a simple distraction could have devastating effects, so we're asking people to limit the distractions, put their phone down and focus on driving,” Perrine said.

Wachtel said she reminds all of her athletes to pay extra attention while out running and encourages them to wear bright and reflective colors, to make sure they can hear what’s going on around them through their music, and most importantly, look closely before crossing traffic.

When it comes to Indiana’s hands-free law here’s what you need to know:

  • You can make calls while driving you just can’t have the phone in your hand. The same goes for using GPS.
  • If you break the law, you will be subject to a fine and this summer the Indiana BMV started adding points to drivers' records who violated the law.