Texting While Driving Laws
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What is Texting While Driving?
Texting while driving is the act of reading, viewing, writing, or sending text messages via cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. It is a moving traffic violation and in some jurisdictions it is considered to be a criminal misdemeanor. Texting while driving is highly discouraged because it distracts the driver from concentrating on road safety.
Studies have shown that texting while driving increases the risk of a vehicle crash by anywhere from 2.8 to 23.2 times than normal. Therefore, the laws covering texting are aimed more at deterrence (prevention) rather than recovery of losses.
What Are the Laws on Texting While Driving?
The details of state texting laws vary widely by region. For example, some only ban texting while driving for persons under the age of 18 with a temporary permit. Check with an attorney for more details regarding the texting and cell phone use laws of your particular state.
Currently 41 states and the District of Columbia have an outright ban on all forms of texting for all drivers. In 33 of these states, enforcement is primary, meaning that the police can stop a person if they see them texting while operating a motor vehicle. In the remaining four states, enforcement is secondary, meaning that a police officer can only cite the offender for texting if they have pulled them over for a different violation, such as running a stop light.
States that do NOT have any type of restriction on texting while driving are:
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
What Are the Penalties for Texting While Driving?
As mentioned, the laws governing texting while driving vary from state to state. However, punishment for texting while driving generally includes a combination of the following:
- Monetary fines- these can range from as low as $20 up to $500 depending on the state
- Criminal charges- in some states texting while driving can result in criminal misdemeanor charges (Class B or C)
- Jail or prison time- if the offense has resulted in bodily injury to another driver, jail or prison time may be imposed
The severity of punishments increases with repeat offenses. For example, after a second offense, the judge may choose to issue a higher fine or a longer jail sentence.
In addition to legal consequences, other consequences for texting while driving include:
- Points on one’s driving record
- Suspension or revocation of driving privileges
- Mandatory road safety classes
- Vehicle impoundment, especially if great bodily injury resulted from an accident
Finally, in some jurisdictions commercial drivers and school bus drivers are held to stricter standards. Violations can result in fines of over $2,000 for truck and bus drivers.
What Compensation Can I Receive if I Have Been Injured By Someone Texting While Driving?
The exact amount of compensation will be different based on the facts of the case. However, you can receive compensatory damage awards for any injuries you suffered. You can also recover money for any expenses you had or any money you lost because of your injury.
In some cases, punitive damages may be added. Punitive damages are designed to punish the offender for his or her actions. For example, if the person who injured you was fined for texting while driving previously, the court may add punitive damages onto the amount of money awarded.
You should contact a personal injury attorney if you were involved in an accident with a driver who was texting while driving. A personal injury lawyer can help you recover any money you lost because of the driver’s negligence.
Do I Need a Lawyer if Facing Texting While Driving Charges?
Texting while driving is a serious offense and can even result in criminal misdemeanor charges. You should contact a lawyer if you are involved in a charge of texting while driving. It is especially important to seek advice from a lawyer if the offense resulted in great injury or the death of another driver. Also, if the charge is a second or repeat offense, you should obtain legal representation as the punishments will be more severe than first-time charges.
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Last Modified: 09-13-2013 04:40 PM PDT
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