TEXTING KILLS: Police warn against distracted driving

COLUMBIA CITY — A law passed by the Indiana Legislature last July was allegedly broken in Adams County this week, causing the deaths of two small children in a vehicle-buggy accident that also seriously injured four others.According to news reports, police accuse a 21-year-old Bluffton man of texting and driving, a crime in Indiana punishable with a $500 fine as of last summer.According to local law enforcement, using a cell phone to create and send a text message while behind the wheel requires too much attention that should be spent on the road.“I think it would be a huge distraction,” said Columbia City Police Chief Tim Longenbaugh.“We used to see a lot of it (texting and driving) and with the law change I couldn’t say how many citations we’ve written, but it’s definitely something we are on the lookout for.”According to Whitley County Sheriff Mark Hodges, thumbing in an “LOL” while leaving one hand on the wheel and navigating a roadway is as big a gamble as driving after a few cocktails.“Studies reveal that texting and driving is as hazardous as drinking and driving,” said Hodges. “Regardless of what one thinks, texting while driving diverts the driver’s attention and eyes away from the road for too long of a time period to be safe.”The Tuesday crash in Adams County exemplified the rationale for the law, which was signed by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels on May 11, 2011. The law, House Bill 1129, passed the Indiana House of Representatives 83-10 and the Indiana Senate 26-24.“There are a lot of distractions while driving, like people who are putting on makeup or shaving while they’re driving,” said Longenbaugh.“But when you’re texting, your eyes are completely off the road and we all know that things can happen quickly, like the flick of a switch when you’re driving.”According to news reports in Adams County, the driver of the car, Chandler Gerber of Bluffton, admitted to being in the process of texting a family member when the accident occurred.