Distracted Driving Laws

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Texting and driving laws are becoming a standard state law across the country. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, text messaging while driving has been banned by 39 states. The country is taking distracted driving seriously, but we wonder if these laws are actually lowering the number of accidents from cell phone use. Even more, we wonder how these laws are being treated in the courts.

Tragic accidents have occurred from distracted driving. Checking your text messages, fiddling with the radio, or eating in the car can result in slower reaction time behind the wheel. After such an accident occurs, we wonder how distracted driving laws are being applied and what type of penalties guilty parties could face.

Why We’re Asking:

In today’s modern world, virtually everyone of driving age owns a cell phone. We are constantly checking our text messages, making phone calls, and being notified of new e-mails, looking at Facebook messages and scrolling through Twitter. But this technology comes with grave danger when it is being used by drivers. To find out more, we’re turning to our panel of legal professionals.

Are distracted driving laws preventing accidents?

In states where the laws are being enforced, are the consequences great?

If you cause an accident while violating distracted driving laws, what type of penalties could you face?

Should drivers involved in such an accident hire a personal injury lawyer to navigate the relatively new laws?

We look forward to learning more about about distracted driving laws. Check back next week to see what our personal injury legal professionals have to say!

Post your answers in the comment field below!

5 COMMENTS

  1. In states where the laws are being enforced, are the consequences great? The consequences vary state to state, but in Connecticut, distracted driving consequences when no accident is involved are fines (rather than criminal charges). However, if an accident is involved, there can obviously be criminal charges and/or personal injury actions associated with it as well.

    If you cause an accident while violating distracted driving laws, what type of penalties could you face? It really depends on the specific incident and specific state. However, it is realistic to assume that fines would be involved, as well as potential license suspension and other criminal penalties.

    Should drivers involved in such an accident hire a personal injury lawyer to navigate the relatively new laws? If someone is involved in an accident that was caused due to distracted driving, they should consider seeking a personal injury attorney or a criminal defense attorney, depending on what exactly occurred.

  2. In states with distracted driving laws are the consequences great?

    In New York a driver can get 3 points on their license for a cellphone violation. Moreover, talking or texting while driving are usually taken very seriously and municipalities are hesitant to compromise on the points. If you get a ticket for distracted driving (cellphones or texting) you should hire a traffic ticket attorney. The consequences of points can mean a higher car insurance rates.

    Should drivers involved in an accident due to distracted driving hire a personal injury lawyer?

    In NY, the fact that the driver who has caused your harm was distracted while they were driving does not in an among itself mean that you have a personal injury case. As in any negligence case there are the elements of liability (who was at fault), causation and damages.

    In regards to liability the fact that the person who caused you harm was distracted while driving does create a presumption that they were negligent (because they broke the law).

    However regardless if the other side is 100% at fault you still need to have a “serious injury” (as defined by law) in order to prevail in a personal injury action in NY.

    If you were distracted while driving and caused an accident you should immediately contact your car insurance company. The faster that you give them the details of the accident, the faster that they can take actions to minimize the likelihood that the plaintiff’s recovery will exceed the limits of your insurance policy.

  3. Penalties for distracted driving will vary from state to state but will typically involve fines of some level when there is no accident. When there is an accident, the distracted driver will face both criminal penalties (fines) as well as civil penalties (liability to any person injured by the driver’s negligence).

    A driver owes a duty of care to operate his or her vehicle in a non-negligent manner. A distraction, from eating or drinking to texting or checking email, will take away from attention to the road. A plaintiff’s personal injury attorney should be able to use that distraction to the advantage of his or her client. Someone injured in an accident would be well advised to consult with an attorney to ensure they are being fully protected.

  4. Ohio cities that have passed absolute bans on cell phone use
    while driving appear to have curtailed the problem. However, the jury is
    still out on Ohio’s new state law on distracted driving because it is both
    new and difficult to enforce, he says.

    Ohio’s law included a grace period, which ended last month. The state law
    provides for a maximum penalty of a $150 fine and points against the
    offender’s driver’s license. A driver under age 18 also faces a 60-day
    license suspension on a first offense, and a $300 fine and one-year
    suspension for a subsequent offense.

    Cicero says that based on his experience, an absolute ban on cell phone use
    while driving is the best solution.

    Should drivers involved in such an accident hire a personal injury lawyer
    to navigate the relatively new laws? Cicero suggests that offenders hire
    criminal lawyers and victims personal injury lawyers. A victim can subpoena
    cell phone and e-mail records that can prove the exact time text or e-mail
    messages were sent — useful in proving one’s case. Cicero also suggests
    that offenders acknowledging their guilt plead no contest to protect
    themselves in subsequent civil cases.

  5. Are distracted driving laws preventing accidents?

    I’d venture to say distracted driving laws have had some, but minimal
    effect. Id’ compare it to speed limits. Some people adhere to them, but
    those who tend to live more on the reckless side of the road tend to ignore
    both. I am happy to expound on what we’ve seen in Florida (no such laws)
    and Georgia (with such laws), as I represent clients in both.

    In states where the laws are being enforced, are the consequences great?

    They aren’t great. They are a mild deterrent. Georgia has issued only
    about 1,300 tickets under the distracted driving laws that went into effect
    two years ago, the Department of Driver Services reported in late October
    2012. A WSBTV reporter found that so far under the cell phone law, fewer
    than three dozen drivers (under the age of 18) were cited. Fines of $150 are
    levied for all infractions. Catching the culprit is sometimes difficult.

    If you cause an accident while violating distracted driving laws, what type
    of penalties could you face?

    It depends on the state. 33 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice
    drivers. School bus drivers in a mere 19 states and D.C. may not use a cell
    phone when passengers are present. 39 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and
    the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. All but 4 have
    primary enforcement. An additional 5 states prohibit text messaging by
    novice drivers. 3 states restrict school bus drivers from texting.

    Many localities have passed their own distracted driving bans. However, some
    states ­ such as Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada,
    Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma ­ prohibit localities from enacting such laws.

    Should drivers involved in such an accident hire a personal injury lawyer to
    navigate the relatively new laws?

    Most of the time those injured need lawyers. Those who injure someone are
    represented by their insurance companies.

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