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Tougher Laws Seek A Solution to Combat Distracted Driving

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Nearly 303 million people in the United States have cell phones. At any given moment during the daylight hours, more than 800,000 vehicles are being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

As auto accidents and fatalities increase on America’s roads, some states are taking legislative action to further combat distracted driving.

In response to a 32 percent increase in deaths from distracted driving from 2014 to 2015, a new law in Washington State goes in effect on July 23. Referred to as “E-DUI,” (electronic driving while impaired), the law prohibits the use of cell phones or any electronic device while driving, even when stopped at a traffic light.

“Use of cell phones or electronic device” is defined now as:

  • Holding a device in either hand
  • Using your hands to read, write, or send email, text messages and instant messages
  • Taking a picture
  • Watching a video

A first offense is $136, a second offense within five years jumps to $234. Citations are also reported to insurance companies.

Additionally, residents may want to rethink going through the drive-through for a cup-o-joe on the way to work. Although the new law refers to cell phones and other electronics, if pulled over for a traffic violation and caught with a sandwich or coffee in your hand, a driver could receive a secondary violation with a $99 fine.

Stronger measures to crack down on distracted driving in New Jersey also go into effect on Sunday.

New Jersey is said to already have one of the strongest distracted driving laws in the United States, yet accidents were up by 8% between 2015 and 2016.

Under the new law, a hotline already in place to report aggressive or drunk driving can also be used to report those who are texting while driving. The accused driver will receive a letter from the state informing them that they were observed driving while distracted. Although a ticket will not be issued based on a hotline call, the letter will clearly outline the penalties for being caught by a police officer for texting while driving. The first offense is a $400 fine, a second offense is a $600 fine, and a third offences is an $800 fine plus a license suspension of ninety days, with motor vehicle points on the driver’s license. The letter will also state that if a distracted driver is judged to be the cause of a traffic accident that results in the injury or death of another person, that driver will face criminal charges and possible prison time.

A new law set to take effect in North Dakota on August 1, 2017 adds a $100 penalty if a driver that violates a traffic law was also doing something distracting. For example, if a driver is pulled over for blowing through a stop sign, he/she can be fined if engaged in any form of distraction, such as eating a granola bar, reaching around the car, or trying to put on lipstick – not just cell phone use and driving. According to a spokesperson for the North Dakota Highway Patrol, “there’s not set list of what counts as a ‘distraction’ but the law said it’s to include any activity “not necessary to the operation of the vehicle” that “reasonably impairs, or would reasonably be expected to impair, the ability of the individual to safely operate a vehicle.” He said that the vagueness in the verbiage of the law is intentional in order to discourage a wide range of distractions that cause bad driving and accidents.

These are just a few states that have enacted stricter laws this year against distracted driving. As you can see, they are each slightly different. Do you know your state’s distracted driving laws? Click here for a list of distracted driving laws. As the site states, please keep in mind that these laws are subject to change so it is a good idea to check the most current version of your state’s drivers handbook.

I am a strong advocate of changing a distracted driving culture. My company, Lawsuit Financial, not only actively promotes driver safety and publicly addresses driving distractions, but also supports the Casey Feldman Foundation (CFF) and EndDD.org.

I also believe it is never too early to talk to your kids about safety, including distracted driving. To help parents and caregivers with this, and other important topics, I have been actively writing a children’s book series addressing safety issues. For release dates, associated activities and events, as well as information about my legal thrillers, Betrayal of Faith (available now) and Betrayal of Justice (to be released this fall), please join my website.

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