Unenforceable laws don’t do much good

Kokomo Tribune

Indiana legislators passed a law in 2010, aimed at cutting back on the number of motorists texting while driving. It hasn’t worked.

Two years after that law went into effect, we reported Kokomo police officers had written just five citations — three in all of 2012 and two in the first six months of 2013.

The problem, they say, is the law is nearly impossible to enforce. Other police departments have come to the same conclusion. According to the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, law enforcement issued 2,020 tickets for texting while driving between 2011 and 2015, The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne reported. “That’s about 500 tickets a year for the whole state,” the newspaper said.

While the law forbids drivers from typing, transmitting or reading texts and emails while their vehicles are in motion, the law also states officers can’t confiscate phones or other mobile devices to determine whether a person was breaking the law.

That means police would have to subpoena phone records to issue a citation, they say, and the only time they’re likely to do that is in the event of a wreck.

Well, legislators passed another bill with an enforcement problem in 2015. Call it the “keep right” law.

With the threat of a ticket and $500 fine, a slow-moving vehicle in the left or passing lane must move to the right and out of the way of faster traffic. That means a person driving the posted speed limit on a highway could be ticketed for not making way for a motorist driving 5, 10 or 20 mph faster than the slowpoke.

State Sen. Karen Tallian of Portage called it “the silliest, most unjustifiable proposal of the entire session.”

We recognize that motorists who impede the free flow of traffic can be a safety hazard. But are they honestly more dangerous than those driving 15 mph above the speed limit, a speed so excessive that it’s categorized as driving recklessly?

Then-Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, said his law gives slower drivers incentive to stop living life in the fast lane. But even one of the law’s supporters, Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, said it probably won’t be enforced by state police, who are more likely to watch for speeders or intoxicated drivers.

Turns out, Tomes wasn’t too far off the mark. State troopers wrote just 103 tickets between July 1, 2015 — the date the law took effect — and July 1, 2016, WISH-TV reported.

Laws that won’t be enforced — or can’t be, as in the case of the texting law — aren’t really laws at all.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.