Distracted driving has become a menace on the highways, especially given the rising use of cell phones to text or talk while driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2008, nearly 6,000 people died in traffic accidents involving a distracted driver, representing 20 percent of all highway crashes.
Distracted driving is any non-driving activity in a motor vehicle that takes away the driver’s attention or focus. It can include conversing with passengers, eating food, searching for a radio station or a CD, observing the landscape, talking on a cell phone or texting.
Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to crash than non-distracted drivers, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A Carnegie-Mellon University study even found that driving while using a cell phone reduces brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent.
To address the rising dangers related to distracted driving, Connecticut passed a number of distracted driver laws to sanction drivers who use hand-held devices behind the wheel. Connecticut prohibits:
- Drivers older than 18 from using hand-held devices to make calls or texts. Hands-free devices are permitted.
- Drivers under 18 or possessing only a learner’s permit from using even hands-free devices. No cell phone use whatsoever is allowed for motorists who are minors or novice drivers.
- School bus drivers from using a mobile or hands-free device while behind the wheel.
- Texting while driving. Regardless of whether the driver’s age or use of a hands-free device, texting is not allowed while behind the wheel.
Distracted driving is also a primary offense, meaning that an officer can pull over a motorist for distracted driving alone. A separate driving violation such as speeding, failure to stop, etc., does not have to be part of the stop in order to cite the driver for the cell phone. Police can ticket any motorist observed to be in violation of the distracted driver law.
Connecticut also bans any activity that interferes with the safe operation of a motor vehicle on a highway. A traffic officer, at his or her discretion, can find that a person gazing out the window while eating a hamburger should be ticketed.
Distracted driving is a big problem with a simple solution. Car accidents can be avoided and lives can be saved by simply waiting to talk or text when you are not driving a motor vehicle.
Paying attention to the road, reading road signs and being aware of what’s going on around your vehicle will help keep you, your passengers and others on the road safe. If you’ve been injured by a distracted driver, an experienced car accident attorney can help you understand your legal options going forward.