Editorial Roundup: Indiana

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. April 27, 2024.

Editorial: Motorists need strategies, not scare campaigns, to reduce driving distractions

More than 40,000 people in the U.S. were killed last year in vehicle crashes, according to preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The new statistics, released to coincide with the launch of the agency’s “Put the Phone Away or Pay” campaign, add to concerns that little is being done to address “distracted driving,” one of the most common causes of preventable traffic deaths.

The federal agency said the issue has only grown in urgency with the ubiquity of smartphones, resulting in 3,308 deaths and 289,310 injuries in 2022, and 3,522 deaths in 2021.

This week, the Fort Wayne Police Department shared with The Journal Gazette its annual traffic report for 2023. Lt. Anthony Maze, a member of the Fort Wayne/Allen County Crash Team, said distracted driving is hard to enforce and, consequently, remains underreported.

“In reviewing crash reports, (motorists) will tell the officer, ‘I was looking down’ or ‘I dropped something,’ when in reality, they could have been on their phone,” Maze said. “We’re not going to know it, and they’re not going to admit it.”

Indiana statute allows law enforcement to pull over a motorist for distracted driving only if an officer sees a phone in the driver’s hand. Still, 128 local motorists were ticketed or issued electronic citations for distracted driving in 2023.

The largest number of traffic complaints to Fort Wayne police are for speeders and motorists disregarding traffic lights and stop signs, Maze said.

“We will get complaints from citizens within neighborhoods of stop signs being run during peak hours, like going to work and coming home,” he said. “We had 426 electronic citations written for disregarding a traffic control signal or sign, and 295 more in handwritten tickets.”

Fort Wayne has no red-light cameras that snap photos of vehicles running traffic signals, Maze said, but the Traffic Engineering Department sets cameras along roads to monitor traffic flow and congestion that the local crash team can use to review crashes for violations. Most are set along the Coliseum Boulevard and Lafayette Street corridors, but others are placed in locations across the city.

FWPD’s 2023 traffic report contained mostly good news. The 8,054 property-damage accidents and 2,133 hit-and-run crashes represent eight-year lows within the city, but the reported 1,573 personal-injury accidents in 2023 are at a four-year high and the number of crashes involving intoxicated or impaired drivers, 359, is up 107 over 2022.

Nineteen people were killed in crashes last year, the same number as in 2022. The eight-year low for traffic fatalities was 14 in 2018. The highest number since 2016 was 28 traffic deaths in 2021.

Scare campaigns, such as the federal traffic safety agency’s “Put the Phone Away or Pay” crusade, are usually not effective, said Rachel Blakeman, director of Purdue Fort Wayne’s Community Research Institute. She told The Journal Gazette motorists need strategies to reduce distractions while driving.

Lt. Maze of the Fort Wayne/Allen County Crash Team offers these suggestions:

Exercise patience: “We’ve already got construction delays as it is. Maybe plan your day to leave 10 to 15 minutes early to arrive at your destination.”

Be vigilant: “Be aware of what the other drivers are doing around you, especially now with the warmer weather and motorcyclists being out.”

Limit eating and drinking to traffic stops: “There’s no traffic offense about eating or drinking in your car. Try not to do that while you’re in motion.”

That’s good information to consider as we drive through neighborhoods, down boulevards and on highways throughout Fort Wayne. It’s our choice to control how we drive to protect ourselves, our passengers and the people with whom we share the road.


Anderson Herald Bulletin. April 25, 2024.

Editorial: Rokita right to target forever chemicals

Most everyone can appreciate the convenience of waterproof and non-stick products.

But at what cost to public health and the environment?

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita has filed a lawsuit against 22 companies in the state that, allegedly, have tried to conceal their longtime use of “forever chemicals” and the potential cost to human health.

Defendants in the lawsuit include heavy hitters such as 3M Company, DuPont, Corteva, United Technologies and Carrier Global.

The lawsuit was filed in Shelby County because a 2022 probe at the Army Aviation Support Facility there linked forever chemical contamination to use of AFFF foam for firefighter training. The foam has also been linked to soil, sediment, surface water and groundwater contamination near fire training areas at Grissom Air Reserve Base and Fort Benjamin Harrison.

PFAS, or forever chemicals, have been directly connected to kidney cancer, organ dysfunction, endocrine system disruption, immune system suppression, reproductive abnormalities and childhood developmental issues.

Among other uses, forever chemicals render cookware non-stick and carpeting, clothing and cosmetics stain-resistant and waterproof.

Forever chemicals were first used in household products in the 1940s and over the past eight decades have seeped into our soil and water supplies — not to mention our bodies. The chemicals are now found in the blood of people and animals across the planet, as well as in the food supply and a wide array of consumer products.

Rokita maintains that some manufacturers in Indiana have used forever chemicals recklessly, flouting public health concerns.

The lawsuit contends that, while the companies “knew or should have known about the risks associated with PFAS-containing products, ”they marketed, sold and distributed contaminated products to Hoosiers “while concealing the dangers” and “affirmatively distorting and/or suppressing their knowledge and the scientific evidence linking their products to the unreasonable dangers those products pose.”

Furthermore, Rokita says the companies violated state and federal environmental regulations and ran afoul of Indiana consumer protection laws.

Similar lawsuits are being filed in some other states in the aftermath of the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent establishment of new drinking water standards designed to limit exposure to forever chemicals.

The new EPA rule requires monitoring within five years of six different forever chemicals in public water systems and mitigation if the chemicals are found to be above the allowable level.

Indiana Department of Environmental Management public drinking water testing over the past few years has revealed forever chemicals levels that exceed the EPA’s health advisory in 24 counties: Bartholomew, Carroll, Cass, Clark, Crawford, Decatur, Elkhart, Floyd, Gibson, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Lake, LaPorte, Madison, Marion, Perry, Posey, Scott, St. Joseph, Sullivan, Vigo and Warrick.

Rokita’s office is targeting companies that not only used forever chemicals at “toxic levels” but hid internal research about harm to consumers.

Hoosiers have the right to know the environmental and public health costs of using products containing forever chemicals.

Rokita is doing the right thing by holding almost two dozen companies operating in Indiana accountable for hiding those costs, allegedly, in order to sell their products.