Distracted driving is quite literally being distracted while driving due to any activity that could cause the driver to divert his or her attention from driving. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, distracted driving kills approximately 9 people every day in the United States.

Below is an incomplete list of ways a driver can drive distracted:

  • Talking on your cell phone while driving
  • Texting while driving
  • Reaching for your phone
  • Changing the radio station
  • Checking your GPS
  • Taking a photo or selfie
  • Checking your email
  • Talking to your passenger
  • Applying make-up
  • Eating/drinking

Essentially, any task/activity that makes the driver look away from the road and not pay attention to their surroundings would be an activity that creates distracted driving.

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What are the Distracted Driving Laws?

Traffic laws vary by state, but almost all states have enacted distracting driving laws. Many new laws prohibit driving while using a cell phone or driving while texting. Some states prohibit more old-fashioned forms of distracted driving, such as applying make-up or driving while shaving.

Other states have broad statutes which define distracted driving as doing something while operating a vehicle which is not necessary to operating the vehicle and impairs, or would reasonably be expected to impair, the driver’s ability to drive safely.

What are Some Cell Phone Laws?

With the prevalence of cell phone usage, many states have enacted laws that relate to usage of cell phones while driving. Some states allow drivers to use their cell phone so long as it is hands-free (speaker/bluetooth). Other states forbid all cell phone use, even with hands-free device by certain classes of drivers, such as drivers under the age of 18. 

Many states also have laws that prohibit driving while texting. Typically these laws also prohibit the use of other gadgets that could significantly distract the driver, such as emailing, web browsing, using smart phone apps, playing cell phone games, etc. 

What are the Penalties for Distracted Driving?

States dictate the punishments for distracted driving. Most distracted driving cases are considered traffic offences punishable by monetary fines, although some states impose stricter penalties.

For example, in Alaska, the penalty for texting while driving can be up to a $10,000 fine and one year in prison depending on the facts and circumstances of the case. It is one of the states with the harshest penalties. Idaho also considers distracted driving a criminal misdemeanor.

Can Distracted Drivers Face Additional Liability?

Yes. Distracted drivers often get into accidents and cause injuries, which lead to lawsuits. Distracted drivers could be sued for negligence or recklessness. A guilty verdict can result in a defendant having to pay damages and attorneys’ fees.

Should I Speak to a Lawyer for Distracted Driving?

In many cases distracted driving charges can be handled in a traffic court or online. However, if the offense involves serious injury or property damages, you may wish to consult a lawyer for advice. Distracted driving can be a criminal misdemeanor depending on your jurisdiction. Consulting with a skilled criminal defense attorney can be of great benefit if you are involved in distracted driving charges.