Smartphones are cellular phones that combine the functions of a personal digital assistant (PDA) with those of a mobile phone.  Most smartphones have advanced features and can perform the same tasks as a desktop computer.  Common versions of smartphones include the iPhone, Android, and Blackberry.

A main feature of smartphones is connectivity to the internet.  This means that smartphone user can browse the internet directly through their phone.  Smartphones are also equipped with cameras, which allow users to take photos and record videos through the device. 

While smartphones can be very helpful, they can also present a safety risk if used while driving.  Because of the many functions that smartphones can perform, a driver can easily become distracted if they use a smartphone while driving.  This can lead to an increase in automobile accidents, as well as an increase in driving violations

Is it Illegal to Use a Smartphone while Driving?

Many states do not have laws which specifically address smartphone use while driving.  However, about 40 states have currently enacted “distracted driving laws”.  Distracted driving laws make it illegal to engage in any form of distraction while driving, such as rubbernecking, or the use of cell phones.

While most distracted driving laws address texting while driving, it can be presumed that distracted driving laws also prohibit the use of smartphones while driving.  Using a smartphone can while driving can be just as dangerous as texting while driving, if not more dangerous. 

You may be cited for distracted driving if you use a smartphone for the following activities while driving:

  • Texting
  • Chatting
  • Reading or writing e-mails
  • Surfing the internet
  • Engaging in a phone call without a headset
  • Taking videos or photographs
  • Watching videos or viewing photographs
  • Entering in a GPS route while driving

Basically, any smartphone activity that reduces a driver’s ability to concentrate on the road can be considered a violation.  However, it is generally considered ok to listen to a music playlist or to use audio-guided GPS programs through a smartphone, so long as you program such features before you begin driving. 

What are the Consequences for Violating Distracted Driving Laws?

Most smartphone violations will be classified under distracted driving laws.  Violations of distracted driving laws or texting while driving laws can vary according to state.  However, the legal consequences for such violations typically include:

  • Traffic tickets
  • Small monetary fines
  • Criminal penalties:  In some states, texting while driving can lead to criminal consequences, including jail time
  • Other consequences:  You may have your license or driving privileges suspended, or have to attend traffic classes

Legal punishments for distracted driving can increase with repeat offenses.  Also, if the violation involved serious injury to another driver, the punishments can become more severe (i.e., higher fines or longer periods of jail time).

Again, not all states have smartphone laws.  If you are unsure of the driving laws in your state, you may wish to ask a lawyer for advice.  To be safe, use common sense and avoid operating a smartphone while driving. 

Do I Need a Lawyer If Cited for Smartphone Use While Driving?

If you have been cited for distracted driving or any other driving violations, you should contact a lawyer.  Some driving violations can lead to complex criminal cases.  An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you get a reduced sentence, or they can help you get the charges dropped.