Texting while Driving Can Lead to Some Serious Legal Trouble
Want to know the number of drivers who are, at this moment, texting while driving? According to the US government’s website that deals with distracted driving, the number is 660,000. Distracted driving is a term that encompasses various activities that pull at a driver’s attention when he or she should be driving. And at the top of this distracted driving list is… texting.
Why is texting while driving so dangerous? Consider this: The time your eyes are off the road while texting averages 5 seconds. That’s enough time for you to travel the distance of a football field. Now imagine doing that blindfolded with cars coming at you. Sound horrifying? It is. Research from 2014 revealed an estimated 431,000 injured a year due to accidents caused by distracted drivers.
What do the laws say about texting and driving?
Thankfully, there are now laws in place that ban texting while driving. Here is an overview of the laws in the US related to texting and cell phone use:
- 46 states, and Guam, the US Virgin Islands, D.C., and Puerto Rico ban texting in any form for all drivers.
- Currently, no states completely ban all cell phone use. That is, in all states you can use your phone while driving so long as you are using a Bluetooth headset along with your phone, or your phone is on speaker mode.
- 38 states, as well as D.C. ban all cell phone use for novice drivers, and 20 states ban it for school bus drivers.
- 14 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the US Virgin Islands and D.C. ban handheld use for phones.
What kind of legal repercussions there for texting while driving?
Penalties differ depending on the state you are in, as do the laws. But here are some notable mentions.
- The highest fine fees are charged in Alaska. If the offender is caught texting and driving there, he or she can be fined up to $5,000 and charged with one year in jail.
- Nebraska fines go from $200 for a first violation, $300 for a second violation, and $500 for subsequent violations. Plus three demerit points off the offender’s driver’s license.
- A texting while driving fine in Louisiana starts from $175 to $500. That amount can double if the offender is involved in a traffic accident caused by texting.
- Wisconsin texting while driving drivers face fines between $20 to $400.
But fines are not all you need to worry about. If you are involved in a traffic accident due to texting while driving, you could be charged with a Catastrophic Injury lawsuit. Here, too, facts on auto injury laws vary from state to state.
In a nutshell, when an injury is caused by recklessness on the part of another person. And the injury results in death, or other life-altering disability, such as paralysis, limb loss, etc. Because the consequences can lead to astronomic medical costs that are often lifelong, the offender may be sued for damages.
Whether or not the accident and the resulting injury can be classified as a Catastrophic Injury will be up to the court to decide. But any kind of damages to others where the driver is deemed responsible result in a hefty settlement that often climbs to six figures and more. A texting while driving offender could be charged with vehicular manslaughter if someone dies due to his or her actions. States have different laws that deal with this, but most include a prison sentence and a fine.
Texting and driving laws are difficult to enforce. Therefore, personal responsibility and accountability is required to create safer roads for everyone. Some tech advances are forcing us to change how we think about driving. Until then, the more people take to heart the dangers of texting while driving and its wide-reaching consequences, the safer we will all be.