SOUTH BEND — A new law now making its way through the Indiana Statehouse is aimed at cracking down on distracted drivers; making it illegal for them to send or receive text messages while behind the wheel. But, just how dangerous is it? WSBT took a closer look to find out. The new law would ban both text messaging and emailing behind the wheel for anyone on the road in Indiana. The Indiana House Public Policy Committee approved it unanimously on Wednesday. It now moves on to the full House for consideration. The bill would make the use of cell phones, smart-phones and other electronic communications devices a Class C driving infraction punishable by a fine of up to $500. But, how much would the new law really improve safety on the road? WSBT conducted its own test in late 2007 to find out, and the results were fairly conclusive. Now, another new study paints an even more alarming picture of just how much damage one simple text can do when it's sent or received behind the wheel. It Only Takes A Second Emily Birr, a 16-year-old junior at Adams High School in South Bend who is just finishing up driver's education follows two simple rules behind the wheel: eyes on the road and cell phone off. "I turn my phone on vibrate when I'm driving, so I don't even know if anyone calls or texts me. I've never used my phone when I'm driving," she said. The reason? "It scares me," she said. But, to many other teens, texting while driving is "no big deal." During our test in 2007, WSBT asked a group of teens from the South Bend Police Department's Explorer Post how common texting behind the wheel is in Michiana. All said they do it on a regular basis. "Maybe once an hour," said Chad Lemak, then 20, who graduated from Penn High School in 2004. "Almost every time I'm in the car," said Matthew Cory, then 19, who graduated from Washington High School in 2007. "I text a lot," said Courtney Demming, then 18, who graduated from Penn High School in 2007. "All the time. I don't really think about it," said Rusty Collins, then 16 and a junior at Clay High School. Even though all the teens had heard stories about how dangerous using a cell phone can be while driving, all said they continued to text behind the wheel more than ever. They aren't alone. A study conducted in the summer of 2009 by the Pew Research Center showed more than half of all teens admitted to using their phone while driving. 32 percent said they've sent or read text messages while behind the wheel. Even more alarming? A 2008 study by AAA found 61 percent of all drivers--adults included--admit to engaging in some sort of "risky behavior"--from using their cell phone to eating or browsing their iPod--that distracted them while behind the wheel. Statistics like that have prompted some cities like Phoenix to ban text messaging while driving. 19 other states, and the District of Columbia have banned text messaging on the road altogether--including nearby Illinois. But, while debate on the issue in underway in both Indiana and Michigan (along with other nearby states like Ohio and Kentucky), neither state has a specific law addressing cell phone use behind the wheel. A Clear Difference So, just how dangerous are those distractions? Our test in 2007 showed a clear answer. Every driver we studied moved outside their lane and — at times — swerved within their lane when they sent or even read a text message. Every driver drove at least 5 mph slower than the posted speed limit — some up to 10 mph under. Every driver sent messages with an incorrect, incomplete, or misspelled answer. And every driver took their eyes off the road. "[It was] an average of 15 times each message that their eyes were looking up and down on the road," said South Bend Police Corporal Edward Koczan, who helped administer the tests. A 2008 AAA study showed, for every two seconds your eyes are off the road, you're twice as likely to be involved in an accident. The numbers came as no surprise to driving instructor Bill Wagner. He sees drivers on cell phones every day, and knows lost attention means lost reaction. "When you're text messaging, you have the brain four times that of a drunk. So, that would put you at .32 [Blood Alcohol Content]," said Wagner, owner of Frick's Driving School in Mishawaka. "The biggest problem is that you lose peripheral vision. If you're text messaging, it only comes out to here," Wagner said, positioning his hands straight forward just outside his eyes. "If anything happens outside that tunnel vision, you don't see it." And it's not just teens who are causing problems as distracted drivers. "It's across the whole population now. Almost everyone has a cell phone. And some of them say--well, I can multi-task. And I always tell them, which brain are you using for driving and which brain for text messaging? They come back to me and say--I only got one brain! And I say, that's the point," Wagner said. It doesn't take long for problems to arise. "If you're going 60 miles and hour, you're going 90 feet per second. So, if you take your eyes off the road for just two seconds, you've gone 180 feet. That's a little bit long than half a football field. Take your eyes off for three seconds--and that's the average time when you're sending a text message--and you've crossed an entire football field without looking at the road," Wagner said. Legislating Attention Supporters say all of those numbers add up to a clear need for legislation to ban texting while driving. But, some say the law's effect could be tempered, because it would be very difficult to enforce. "It's extremely tough for us [to crack down on it]," said South Bend Police Captain Phil Trent. "Our guys have gotten pretty good at seeing whether or not somebody's wearing a seat belt, or whether or not somebody's got the handset to a cell phone jammed in their ear. But, texting is a different animal. It's usually down below the level of the dashboard. And, that's something we're not able to see readily." "If you come back a year from now, and we have [a texting ban in place] and you ask me what enforcement's been like or how many tickets we've written, it's probably going to be pretty underwhelming," Trent continued. Still, Trent says the new law would be a step in the right direction. "Law abiding citizens, once they find out it's illegal, they won't do it. And, if it helps young people and new drivers, then that's great. But, cracking down on the problem will be a pretty inexact science, because it calls for people to be pretty level with you on what caused an accident," Trent said. There are other tools like cell phone records that can help officers crack down. But, obtaining them for everyday traffic stops would be tedious and very time consuming. Plus, proving that a driver was actually using the cell phone to text while driving can be difficult. Still, Americans seem to support the idea. A 2008 study by AAA suggests 90 percent of the country would be in favor of a law banning text messaging while driving. The question now: will Hoosier lawmakers support it too? There may soon be a new incentive to make their answer "yes." Four Democratic U.S. Senators, led by Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) introduced a bill in July to encourage a nationwide ban on texting behind the wheel. States that choose not to implement the new law would lose up to 25 percent of their federal highway funding.