States Ring In 2014 With Changes To Texting And Driving Laws, Penalties

Most drivers agree by now that texting and driving is a needlessly risky behavior, and drivers in many states even support harsher laws against it. While drivers in the Huntington-Ashland-Ironton area may know of the dangers of distracted driving, some states have begun 2014 with harsher penalties or stricter laws regarding texting, in the hopes of reducing preventable automobile crashes. These changes offer hope for anyone who worries about the dangers of texting and driving or believes that current state laws are not strong enough.

Loopholes Removed, Penalties Increased

A few states have increased the penalties for drivers who are caught texting, while others have closed loopholes that may have allowed drivers to avoid the intended legal consequences. Vermont and Oregon have both increased the penalties for texting and driving. In Oregon, according to Seattle’s KUOW Radio, the maximum fine for texting and driving has now doubled to a significant $500.

In California, meanwhile, limits imposed on teen drivers who may be tempted to text are now stricter, according to the Sacramento Bee. Before, phrasing in the law implied that teenagers could use talk-to-text or text-to-talk technology to read and compose messages while driving, even though doing so still creates a significant cognitive distraction. Now, Senate Bill 194 explicitly bans any form of texting, even hands-free texting, for teenagers who are behind the wheel.

In 2013, Kentucky introduced a “penalty points” system where, in addition to a monetary fine for texting while driving, a driver can be assessed three points against his or her license for the violation. Accruing 12 points within a two-year period can lead to the suspension of driving privileges.

These legal changes represent important progress in protecting innocent people from drivers who make irresponsible decisions. If more motorists are deterred from texting because of these new laws, a significant number of injuries and fatalities could be prevented.

The Facts On Texting And Driving

National figures published on the website Distraction.gov do not serve to reassure drivers about the safety of the roads. Some relevant facts are that:

  • Drivers traveling at 55 mph will cover the length of a football field in the average time it takes to send or read a text.
  • As of Dec. 2012, over 170 billion texts were sent monthly in the U.S., on average.
  • One in five teenagers and one in ten adults has conducted an extended text conversation while driving.
  • One in four teenagers read or send at least one text every time that they drive.

According to the same source, more than 3,000 distracted driving fatalities were reported in 2011 and again in 2012. These statistics do include accidents involving other forms of distracted driving, but it is unlikely that texting only made a trivial contribution to these figures, considering that it is a visual, cognitive and physical distraction.

It is encouraging to see that more states are taking the issue of texting and driving seriously and giving motorists strong reasons to think twice about doing it. Still, even the strictest laws will not prevent every act of negligent driving and people in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio will experience more and more instances of distracted driving. Anyone who has been hurt in an accident involving a driver who was texting or otherwise distracted should make sure to talk to an attorney about seeking compensation for the injury.