Texting while driving laws regulate the use of cell phones and smartphones while driving. Texting while driving is prohibited by these laws. The phone may still be able to be used for other purposes, such as GPS, maps, and music functions, but it may not be allowed to be used for texting.
According to several studies, even a few moments of texting while driving can cause a driver to become distracted and crash. These short moments of distraction can often be enough to lead to a dangerous or even deadly car accident.
Using a phone while driving can lead to traffic citations, criminal charges (for example, excessive speeding, reckless driving, vehicular manslaughter), and civil lawsuits (for example, personal injury). Penalties can include fines, raised insurance rates, jail time, and large monetary judgments.
Using your cell phone while driving in New York, for instance, is punishable by a $130 fine, but no points will be assessed to your license. If you are caught texting, however, you can be fined $130 and have two points assessed to your license. A bill has also been proposed to allow the state to bring criminal charges against distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes.
Texting and Driving Statistics
Teenagers tend to text and drive more than adults. Here are some statistics about teens texting and driving:
- It is 23 percent more likely that drivers involved in collisions are texting while driving.
- The average person reads or sends a text message in 4.6 seconds, whereas the average collision takes only three seconds.
- If you’re driving 55 miles per hour, reading or sending a text is like driving the long way down a football field while blindfolded.
- According to a study conducted by the National Teen Driving Safety Campaign in 2019, 39 percent of high school students texted or emailed while driving at least once.
- Teens tend to text and email while driving increases as they grow older. Although only 16 percent of 14-year-olds have texted or emailed while driving, 60 percent of those 18 and older have a 275 percent increase.
- Grades did not influence students’ likelihood of texting and driving.
- Those who texted while driving were more likely to report engaging in other unsafe transportation behaviors, such as not wearing a seatbelt or getting into an accident while drunk, either as a passenger or a driver.
Teenagers’ auto insurance costs are already high due to their lack of driving experience and heightened likelihood of collisions. The cost of auto insurance will rise even more if you get a ticket for texting and driving.
Are There Any Defenses to Texting While Driving?
Defenses against texting while driving can be similar to those for other accident violations, such as distracted driving. In contrast to the objective blood alcohol content (BAC) test used in DUI cases, much of the evidence used against distracted drivers is subjective, such as testimonies from police officers and witnesses. A defense lawyer can challenge the credibility of witness testimony due to bias, poor vision, or poor memory, among other factors.
Other possible defenses include:
- Identification Issues: Some cases may involve a mistake in identification or other similar administrative errors. In cases of DWI/DUI, if the evidence suggests you were not driving, your attorney can raise this defense. As with distracted driving cases, you may have a valid defense if there is insufficient evidence that you were driving or that you were talking or texting.
- The phone company can identify the date and time of a call or text, but they cannot tell you who made the call. It is possible that other passengers in the vehicle used the handheld device and can testify on your behalf.
- Lack of Probable Cause: A police officer needs probable cause (a reasonable belief that a crime has been or is about to be committed) to stop, detain or arrest you. In jurisdictions where distracted driving laws are enforced primarily, the police have the authority to pull you over if they see you talking on your phone. Due to distracted driving laws being mostly traffic citations, the rules regarding searches are less clear.
- If talking or texting while driving is a secondary offense in your state, you cannot be stopped, searched, or arrested for distracted driving without another lawful reason, such as speeding. In any case, the justification for the stop will be scrutinized by your attorney. In the absence of probable cause, your case can be dismissed.
- Errors with Miranda Warnings: The outcome of a case can occasionally be affected if a person’s criminal rights are not read to them properly. As soon as you’re arrested, you must be read your Miranda rights, which protect you from self-incrimination. For example, you have the right to have an attorney present during questioning. A police officer may not use any statements you make against you if they question you without your attorney.
- Emergencies: Some instances of cell phone usage may be excusable if there is an emergency situation involved. Obviously, this will depend on the facts of the case and the overall discretion of the judge. The law allows talking or texting on a cell phone in emergency situations, such as calls to the police, the fire department or medical personnel. Your local laws may provide additional exceptions.
- For example, you can make cell phone calls while driving on private property in California. If you have been charged with distracted driving, a DWD attorney will review your case to determine whether these or other defenses apply to your case.
- Other Cause of Accident: If you were involved in an accident while texting, it is still possible that you did not cause it. The accident could also have been caused by weather, faulty airbags or tires, poor signage, or even the other driver’s actions. If other factors are present, a felony charge may be reduced to a misdemeanor or even dropped altogether.
- Any fault on the part of the plaintiff can reduce or eliminate a judgment for personal injury or wrongful death damages. An experienced attorney will thoroughly investigate the accident and look for factors that may help your defense.
There are many other possible defenses to a criminal charge. These can vary according to the facts of the situation and the state laws the defendant is subject to.
Penalties for texting while driving violations can involve:
- Criminal (and sometimes civil) fines
- Possible jail time for serious offenses
- Negative effects on one’s driving record
Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with Texting and Driving Laws?
Texting while driving laws are relatively new and may be under review in your state. You may wish to hire a traffic violation lawyer if you have any questions or concerns involving texting while driving. In the event that you need to attend a court hearing, an attorney can inform you of your rights and represent you.
An experienced defense lawyer is essential if you are accused of causing an accident while texting or otherwise distracted. If you cause an accident that results in a death, you could be charged with reckless driving or reckless homicide. The charges against you can be reduced, and the case may even be dismissed if there is insufficient evidence.