Tag Archives: texting while driving laws

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Releases New Distracted Driving Report

Thirty-five states in the US have banned texting while driving—but that doesn’t mean people are putting down their phones. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked 6,000 drivers last year about their driving habits, and the vast majority (90%) of respondents said that they would support a rule that banned texting while driving. In spite of this, two in ten drivers admitted to texting or sending emails behind the wheel. Even more concerning is that among younger drivers (aged 20-24), 50% admitted to texting while driving.

It seems most drivers seemed to think that even when they were engaging in distracting behavior, they were still able to drive safely; whether they were texting, putting on make-up or even reading the paper. But over 3,000 people died last year from accidents caused by distracted drivers, and most of those distractions were cell phone related. Ray LaHood, Transportation Secretary, is attempting to pass federal legislation that bans texting while driving and stops senseless deaths. While we can hope that if this legislation passes more people will avoid distractions, safe driving really starts with you.

That is exactly why I started Teens Against Distracted Driving (TADD.) It is up to each of us not only to drive safely, but also to spread awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. There are lots of ways that you can help: you can take our pledge (and get a free bracelet!), you can spread awareness at your school, you can take our survey or you can check out some of these great sites and resources. Texting and driving is an epidemic, but it can be stopped one driver at a time!


New Iowa and Indiana Laws on Distracted Driving Do Not Go Far Enough

Starting yesterday and today, new Iowa and Indiana laws on distracted driving will be enforced. Both laws are steps in the right direction, but are still lacking real teeth, and fall far below the standards set by other states. Here is a short breakdown of each law, and how TADD would like to see them strengthened.

Indiana: Starting yesterday, June 30th, Indiana made texting while driving against the law. Included in this law is wording that makes writing or reading emails on your phone against the law as well. The penalty for being caught texting and driving is a $500 fine, and potentially more depending on whether or not the action caused an accident. While this fine is rather substantial, especially in comparison to some other states, the law is incredibly narrow.

For one, the law only bans texting and emails. This means that a driver in Indiana can legally browse Facebook, read the news on their phones, and do any other activity on their phones that does not involve texting or emailing. Another way the law falls short is it does not give law enforcement many ways to actually enforce the law. A police officer that suspects someone of texting while driving cannot demand that someone hands over their cell phone. With such a narrow law and an inability to enforce it to the fullest extent, it is difficult to see how this law will significantly cut down on distracted driving in the state.

Iowa: Starting today, Iowa has enacted a law that bans texting while driving. For the last year, law enforcement has been issuing warnings for people that were caught texting and driving, but now if they are found guilty, the act will result in a $30-$125 fine. As the first law in the state against the act of texting while driving, it is nice to see Iowa taking a step in the right direction; however, this law falls short in many regards.

One of the biggest problems with the law is that it is a secondary offense. This means that the fine for texting while driving can only be enforced if the texter is caught breaking another law. Another issue with the law is how low the fine is. In order for a law like this to hold up, there has to be a strong deterrent against the action, and this small amount of money will likely not be enough for most people. Like the Indiana law as well, this law makes no mention of other distracted activities on cell phones.

While these laws do lack teeth in many regards, it is good to see both states taking action against this incredibly dangerous activity. Hopefully each state legislature will be able to build off of this base in the following years to increase penalties and make them universal for all non-hands free use of cell phones while driving.

Teens Against Distracted Driving was founded by Seattle auto accident lawyer Jason Epstein. Jason works on TADD in his spare time, but spends the weekdays working on personal injury cases as a partner with the Seattle law firm, Premier Law Group.

New York Adds Teeth to Laws Against Texting While Driving

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York  said today that he will be introducing new legislation that will crack down on drivers using portable devices while driving. The legislation will include a provision to make texting while driving a primary offense like it is in Washington. Currently, texting while driving is a secondary offense, meaning police can only issue a ticket if the driver is pulled over for another offense, like speeding.

The legislation introduced by Cuomo would make using any portable device while driving, including iPhones and Blackberries, a primary offense. The bill would also increase the penalty from two to three points on a person’s license, and distracted driving curriculum will be made mandatory for anyone seeking a license. The maximum fine will stay the same at $150.

In a statement, Cuomo said that “Every day, countless drivers, particularly teenagers and young adults, drive with their eyes on a screen rather than the road.” He also said  “Distracted driving is nothing less than a lethal activity for the driver themselves, other drivers on the road, and pedestrians.”

Records from the state Department of Motor Vehicles showed that there were almost 332,000 tickets issued in the state of New York for cell phone use while driving and only 3,200 for texting while driving. This data is from 2010, the first full year that cell phone use was considered a primary offense.

Assembly Transportation Committee chairman David Gantt said last week that the bill is expected to pass before session ends June 20. Gantt remains hopeful that a deal can be reached, and Cuomo says that he is working with lawmakers to get an agreement this session. Distracted driving has been a problem in New York where several fatal accidents have occurred as a result of distracted driving in the past few years.

In June, 2007, five teenage girls died in a car crash linked to texting. In December of the same year, a 20-year-old man died in a crash while sending a text message. In 2009, a 22-year old woman died as a result of texting while driving which caused her to crash into a truck. These accidents caused many counties to pass their own laws making texting while driving a primary offense, but state laws superseded them.

It is very encouraging to see that other states are joining the fight against distracted driving. By September of this year, there will be 32 states where texting while driving is a primary offense. Distracted driving is far too dangerous to ignore. A study done at the University of Utah showed that while people are texting and driving it reduces their attention level down to that of a person with an alcohol level of 0.08%. People know about the dangers of distracted driving, but continue to put their lives and the lives of others in danger. I hope that laws similar to this one are passed in all 50 states so that we can be one step closer to winning the battle against distracted driving.

Teens Against Distracted Driving was founded by Seattle personal injury attorney Jason Epstein. Jason’s law firm, Premier Law Group, helps victims of serious injuries caused by the negligence of others. To speak with Jason about TADD or about a personal injury you have suffered, call Premier Law Group at (206) 285-1743