New phone law could be challenging

A new law effective July 1 bans teens under 18 from using cell phones while driving.

Huntington County Sheriff Kent Farthing, however, thinks it will be challenging to make sure teen drivers obey.

"It's not going to be easy to enforce," Farthing says.

Officers would have to stop each vehicle where a driver is using a phone, he says, and check identification to make sure the driver is indeed over 18.

"It's tough to tell (whether) someone driving down the road is 18 or not," he adds.

He compares this law to the seatbelt law, saying some drivers are just going to refuse to follow it, but "for the most part, most will (comply)."

Farthing says that because violation of the cell phone law is an infraction, breaking this law is not punishable by jail time.

"I think it's a good thing for any young driver," says Tom Emely, Huntington police chief.
He says such laws are designed to limit distractions for inexperienced drivers as they enter a new driving environment. The law is a benefit, he adds, because "cell phones are a big distraction."

Huntington County Coroner Leon Hurlburt thinks the new laws are not strong enough.

"In my opinion, (the legislators) didn't go far enough," he says. He thinks 21 years old is the appropriate age.
Hurlburt has been working on the campaign "Drive Alive" about two years, and a new component was recently added that's aimed to stop text messaging while driving.

"I don't think anybody should be texting and driving ... it's just as dangerous as alcohol," he says.

"As time goes on, more and more accidents and fatalities (occur with) phones involved," Hurlburt adds.

There is one thing Hurlburt believes can improve the current help curb phone usage behind the wheel, and that's education. He plans to use the media to get the word out, including billboards (which he has already tackled), a Web site (huntingtoncounty-drivealive.org) and a booklet to give out to teens (which should be published by the end of the month, he says).

Hurlburt also says such things promote discussion between parents and their teen drivers about what's safe while driving and what's not, and a contract for each party to sign re-garding the rules while driving is available at the website.

"Parents play a big part in it ... the important thing is to talk," he says.