Most Indiana drivers have seen someone behind the wheel of a car, holding a cellphone and seemingly oblivious to much of what is going on around them. Some drivers would admit to engaging in this behavior themselves. Most people are probably not aware of the dangers of distracted driving and therefore are not motivated to improve their driving habits, but the Governors Highway Safety Association hopes to change that with a new policy on distracted driving.

Recently the GHSA adopted a new policy supporting a ban on handheld cellphone use for all drivers. Presently only 10 states and the District of Columbia do not allow use of handheld cellphones while driving, while 39 states and the District of Columbia forbid motorists to text while driving.

The new policy steps up the GHSA’s previous recommendation that electronic devices be completely banned for new drivers and school bus drivers, and that texting should be universally banned. The organization, which represents the highway safety offices of the U.S. states and territories, hopes the new policy will reduce the occurrence of distracted driving and tragic distracted driving accidents.

It is often difficult for law enforcement officers to tell whether a driver is texting or dialing a phone call, so enforcing existing bans on just texting is difficult. For example, California has a ban on texting and cellphone use while driving, and the state was able to prosecute 460,487 cellphone use violations but only 14,886 violations for texting, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety.

In addition to the cellphone policy, the GHSA is also recommending that states increase the penalties for driving while impaired by more than one drug, stating that prosecutors need this tool in the fight against drugged driving, which can be just as dangerous as drunk driving.

Bolstering the GHSA’s statements, statistics from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration illustrate the dangers of distracted driving. More than 3,000 people died in accidents in 2010 that involved a distracted driver. About 416,000 people were injured in distracted driving accidents. Drivers are four times more likely to be injured in a crash when using a handheld device.

Another way to look at the distracted driving problem is to consider what can happen in the 4.6 seconds that is the average amount of time it takes to send or receive a text message. At 55 miles per hour, a car can travel the length of a football field in that time. A driver who is distracted by a text is essentially driving blind the whole way.

Distracted and drugged driving are serious concerns and underlie many motor vehicle accidents. Anyone who has been hurt in an accident caused by a negligent or distracted driver should consult an experienced personal injury attorney to explore their legal options.