Texting and Driving Laws
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The proliferation of handheld devices such as cell phones, PDAs, and tablets has resulted in an increase in traffic accidents that result from distracted drivers. Instead of focusing on the road, drivers are glancing at their electronics, reading messages, surfing the internet, typing messages, and doing other activities online. The Federal Communication Commission published disturbing statistics related to the connection between texting and traffic accidents:
- 40% of teens report that they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger
- Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted
- 11% of drivers aged 18 to 20 who were involved in a car accident admitted they were sending or receiving texts when they crashed
Furthermore, some evidence suggests that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.
Given such compelling evidence related to distracted driving, texting and cell phone usage while driving, most states have enacted laws designed to ban texting while driving and, therefore, reduce the number of traffic accidents, injuries, and loss of life caused by distracted driving.
State distracted driving laws tend to focus on using devices for texting and email rather than using the device as a phone. As a result, no state law completely bans cell phone usage while driving. However, over half of the states ban cell phone usage by novice drivers. Novice drivers are those who are under 18 years of age, or drivers of any age who have a learner’s permit or intermediate license. Nineteen states and Washington, D.C. ban cell phone usage by school bus drivers.
The vast majority of states and Washington, D.C. have enacted comprehensive bans on texting while driving. Three states address the issue through their state or county distracted driving laws. The only states that do not have comprehensive provisions addressing texting while driving include Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, Texas, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Of these 9 states, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas have rules prohibiting novice drivers and/or school bus drivers from texting while driving.
Penalties for driving while texting vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, ranging from fines of $25 to $800, court costs, license suspension, misdemeanor conviction, and driver violation points. To avoid causing an accident, causing injury or death, or receiving a fine, instead of texting while driving, drivers ought to pull over to the side of the road to a place where it is safe to send or read a text message.
Despite efforts of states to curb texting while driving, there are still many accidents caused by drivers distracted by texting. Victims of car accidents caused by distracted drivers may suffer serious injuries that also leave them in financial distress due to loss wages and substantial medical bills. Even worse, in some cases victims are killed by the negligence of texting drivers, leaving their loved ones completely devastated. Victims of negligent drivers and their loved ones may be entitled to receive compensation for their injuries, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. An attorney experienced in handling personal injury cases in your state will be able to let you know your legal rights and options.