Texting and Distracted Driving laws in the United States.

Texting and Distracted Driving laws in the United States


While representing a family who had been involved in a catastrophic accident, a famous Toronto Lawyer – John McLeish, made a very salient comment, “It is hard to call it an accident when someone knowingly does something so dangerous as texting while driving”.

A few years ago, AT&T did a teen survey dealing with texting while driving. A majority of teens – 97%, said they know it is dangerous, yet 43% said that they still do it. Teens stated their parents always tell them not to text and drive, but they observe their parents doing it. Teens say that 40% of the time, while in other people’s cars, they see the driver texting.

In the United States and Canada, distracted driving accounts for 14% of fatal car crashes. The NHTSA continues to advise people that texting is the most dangerous road distraction on U.S. highways, claiming approximately nine lives each day. Distracted driving remains a major reason why people swerve into oncoming traffic.

The telecommunications giants all recognize there is a problem. Apple, Google, and Samsung have mobile phone features that detect driving and inhibit texting. Unfortunately, all of the systems can be overridden with a simple response – “I’m not driving.”

With so much information and knowing how dangerous it is, why do we continue to use our phones while driving? It is opined that we need “instant gratification.” A need to be constantly in touch with our community” that pushes us towards this reckless behaviour. Think of it. As texters’ we expect a response to our message within five minutes or less. This is true whether we are at home sitting on our couch or while driving a car. When the ding goes off, we all respond like Pavlov’s dog.

Distracted Driving Laws

Mayhem on the roads is always something state and provincial legislatures try to stop. For this reason, most U.S. states and all of the Canadian provinces have passed laws that prohibit some forms of distracted driving, such as texting or the use of a cell phone. Nearly every traffic infraction deals with financial penalties and the loss of points. In 37 states, the distracted driving law is restricted to novice drivers, while in 23 states, the prohibition includes the prohibition of cell phone use by bus drivers. In 48 states, text messaging is prohibited for all drivers. Missouri and Montana have much more lenient rules dealing with texting and driving.

Oregon secures the position of the strictest state for texting while driving with a maximum fine of $1,000 for the offense, which is ten times the median fine in the U.S.

Texting while driving is illegal everywhere in Texas, and some cities ban all cell phone use while driving.

In New York, it is against the law to use a handheld cell phone while driving. This includes talking on the phone, texting, emailing, and browsing the internet. You could get a ticket if you do any of these things while your vehicle is in motion.

As a general rule, drivers in California cannot use a handheld device while driving, but hands-free devices are acceptable. Drivers under 18 are prohibited from using a cell phone in any way while driving.

Florida’s Texting and Driving Law

Specifically for snowbirds heading to Florida, take heed. Section 316.305, Florida Statutes allows law enforcement to stop motor vehicles and issue citations to motorists who are texting and driving. A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers or symbols into a wireless communications device to text, email and instant message.

So, remember, if it is really important to communicate with someone, pull off of the road and park in a safe place. A text message is not worth your life or that of someone else.


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