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Texting and Driving


Distracted Driving is any activity that shifts a motorist’s attention away from safe driving, such as eating and drinking, playing a game on an app, applying makeup, talking or texting on your phone, reading emails, taking a photo while driving, or even talking to other passengers in the vehicle. Since there is often confusion about what’s allowed and what is not, in many jurisdictions, a “texting ban” is in general about more than texting, and it’s extended to completely prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving.

Texting and driving (including viewing, writing, reading, or sending text messages) is the most disturbing and underrated distraction that diverts a driver’s attention from the road. It takes 4.6 seconds to send or read a text, but at 55 mph, taking your eyes off the road is similar to driving the whole length of a football field blindfolded. Driving is a task that demands someone’s undivided attention; engaging in any non-driving distraction dramatically increases the risk of causing an accident that usually results in deaths and injuries. According to The National Safety Council, every year, cell phone use spurs 1.6 million traffic crashes. 25% of car accidents that occur in the U.S. are caused by mobile phone usage, with texting while driving being 16.7% more likely to cause accidents than drunk driving is.


State Laws on Distracted Driving 

Apart from Arizona and Montana, where it’s legal to text and drive, although there is no national ban on texting or using wireless devices while driving, many states have enacted clear regulations against Distracted Driving as it follows:

  • 38 states and the District of Columbia prohibit all mobile phone use by new drivers.
  • 47 states and the D.C. ban Texting While Driving.
  • 21 states and the D.C. ban cell phone usage for school bus drivers.
  • Missouri bans drivers younger than 21 from Texting and Driving.
  • Texas prohibits bus drivers with passengers younger than 17 and motorists younger than 18 from Texting While Driving.
  • 16 states have passed laws banning wireless phones, texting or any hand-held device use behind the wheel, requiring hands-free use of wireless phones while driving.
  • 41 states have “primary enforcement” laws banning Texting While Driving, meaning that officers don’t need an additional reason to pull drivers over and issue a ticket.
  • South Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, and Florida have “secondary enforcement”, which means a police officer needs another reason (such as running a red light) to pull a driver over; otherwise, they can’t issue a ticket for Texting and Driving.

If someone dies or is badly injured in a car crash caused by a distracted driver, law enforcement officers are allowed to subpoena cell phone companies should they wish to check someone’s account to see if they were texting and driving at the time of the accident. In this case, cell phone records will be used as evidence against the offender.


The Costs of Texting While Driving

Even if many states allow handheld cell phone use, they prohibit texting, while other jurisdictions that ban Distracted Driving may support a ticket-based penalty system regarding cell phone use. In general, traffic enforcement officers have the authority to stop a motorist for texting or cell phone use even if they haven’t committed other traffic violations. While this type of ticket might not add points to a driver’s license, it could lead to hefty assessments and fines.

  • In Wisconsin, driving while texting is prohibited. A first offense means 4 points and a $400 ticket. Second-timers will get an $800 fine;
  • Iowa has zero-tolerance for inattentive driving, including texting behind the wheel. A first offense fine goes as high as $1,000;
  • Minnesota bans drivers from texting or sending electronic messages (a request to access the internet, email, instant message) while operating a motor vehicle. First-time offenders get a $300 penalty.

Texting and Driving offenses could increase auto insurance premium rates by up to 25%. Also, in many states, a $30 fine could end up costing the driver an extra $100 due to court costs and surcharges. The following additional fees could be multiplied by the base ticket amount: Police Testing and Certification, Civil Traffic Court costs and Court Cost Clearing Trust Fund, local law enforcement education, administrative fees, the Court Facilities Fund, the Driver Education Safety Trust Fund, Teen Court, and Article V Assessment.


Consequences of Cell Phone Use While Driving

Depending on the gravity of the offense or whether the driver had prior charges, the punishments for texting while driving could include the following:

  • Monetary fine that ranges from $20 to thousands of dollars;
  • Criminal conviction (in general, a misdemeanor);
  • Imprisonment (if another person is injured or killed);
  • Extra points added to the driving record;
  • Potential revocation or suspension of driving privileges;
  • Mandatory driver’s safety or road safety classes.

Since in some states, Texting While Driving can result in criminal misdemeanor charges, it is always useful to stay informed about your public records, including traffic violations and criminal convictions. With our driving records online lookup tool, within seconds, you have access to this information and more from any portable device.

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