Legislators plead for safer driving, plan to introduce legislation

By Haley Pritchett | The Statehouse File
For The Republic

INDIANAPOLIS — Two girls were killed in central Indiana area by alleged reckless driving, according to two state legislators who plan to introduce legislation to address the issue.

One was a 7- year-old child, crossing the street with her mother. Her name was Hannah, and she was a first-grader. She liked to play soccer and basketball, as well as dance and do gymnastics.

The other was a 16 year-old, Lily Streeval, who was crossing the street at her Bartholomew County bus stop to board a bus for school. She was excited to get her drivers license, and enjoyed playing pool and kayaking.

State Rep. Blake Johnson, D-Indianapolis and State Rep. Mitch Gore, D-Indianapolis, sent a letter to the governor’s office introducing a plan to address reckless driving to help prevent tragedies like this.

“I just want people to remember that, you know, I know it feels important now, getting to work a little bit sooner or getting to your destination quicker,” Gore said. “But if you were to hit and seriously injure somebody, all of a sudden that would seem completely trivial.”

Although there had been a decrease in traffic because of stay-at-home orders and more work- from-home opportunities, the roads somehow became more dangerous.

Nationwide in 2020 traffic fatalities increased over 7%, even though miles traveled in vehicles decreased by 13%. In 2020 almost 37,000 people were killed in a vehicle crash.

On Indiana roads, 813 people were killed in 2020. That is an 8% increase from 2019.

The pandemic is part to blame for this, according to Gore. He said his commute, which used to take 25 minutes, went down to just 15.

“People are used to being able to drive however they please, however fast they please,” he said. “We know that traffic enforcement generally during the pandemic also decreased as agencies tried to limit their officers’ interactions with the public.”

The plan from Johnson and Gore does the following — calls on Gov. Eric Holcomb to allocate a portion of the remaining $350 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds to go to existing public safety institutions’ efforts enforcing current traffic laws, allow the Indiana State police and local agencies to apply for dollars without a match requirement to pay for overtime for officers working traffic enforcement, and provide access funds to county prosecutors to ease handling the additional workload they would likely experience.

Johnson and Gore also plan to introduce legislation in the 2022 session of the Indiana General Assembly that permits cities to install traffic cameras in school zones. State law currently bans cities from using them.

“No other preventable cause of death is as overlooked, or even as implicitly condoned as the hundreds of fatalities caused by reckless driving each year in Indiana,” Johnson said.

Gore calls on Hoosiers to slow down, and remember the dangers of going too fast, especially the stories of Hannah and Lily.

“It’s not worth it, just slow down,” he said. “Keep yourself safe, keep other people safe.”