Distracted driving is a major problem in the United States, as nearly 3,000 motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists lose their lives every year due to distracted driving. This is not to mention the people who are seriously injured each year because a driver was texting, talking, or otherwise being distracted while driving.
Many states are cracking down on this dangerous trend, and the four states with the toughest texting while driving laws impose higher penalties for distracted driving. Continue reading to find out more about the particular implications of texting while driving traffic laws in each particular state.
Distracted Driving Defined
Distracted driving involved any possible action that can take your mind, eyes, or hands away from the task of driving and all the attention it requires. This can include but is not limited to texting, talking on the phone, sending emails, browsing playlists, eating, using the vanity mirror, turning around to talk to passengers in the back seat, or reading. Even the most apparently safe tasks, such as taking your coat off while driving, can turn out to be an extremely dangerous choice.
Distractions can be visual, such as taking your eyes off the road to read something or look at something outside of the car. They can also be manual, like taking your hands off the steering wheel to fix your hair or retrieve something, or they can be cognitive when the driver directs their mental energy into something other than driving, like being caught in a heated conversation. Types of distraction are highly related to each type of personality, however, it is a driver’s duty to avoid all sources of distraction despite how much it can actually affect them.
Crunching the Numbers
In addition to the people who die each year from distracted driving, 400,000 people are injured or get their vehicles damaged because a driver has been distracted. Some of the people who are injured are not even driving. They’re simply crossing the street, walking their dogs, riding their bikes, or waiting at a bus stop. The unfairness of a serious accident happening to someone who isn’t theoretically involved in breaking the law is one of the main reasons why traffic laws are that strict when it comes to texting and driving.
While almost anyone can be distracted while driving, it is no surprise that the problem is more frequent among young drivers. Drivers aged 15-19 make up the majority of all fatal crashes involving a distracted driver. In 2019, nearly 40% of high-school-aged drivers admitted to texting, talking, or sending emails while driving in the past month.
The Harshest Penalties
Oregon is the state with the most severe penalties for distracted driving. If you are caught texting while driving, you will be hit with a whopping $1,000 fine, even if it is your first offense. This fine is ten times the median amount in the United States, and the Beaver State has seen a drastic drop in fatalities as a result.
Utah takes the second spot for the strictest texting while driving laws. In the Beehive state, you will receive a fine of $750 for distracted driving and an extra 50 points on your license, even for a first offense. If you are caught multiple times and accrue 200 points for texting while driving, the state will suspend your license.
Illinois is the third strictest state when it comes to texting while driving. While the financial penalty is lower than in some states—only $75, the conviction for distracted driving carries with it an automatic 10 points on your license. Drivers who rack up more than 15 points over a four-year period will have their license suspended. Illinois is the state most likely to suspend your license for driving while distracted.
Indiana laws on texting and driving are clear, forbidding drivers from sending a text, reading an email, or surfing the Web while driving, even when stopped at a red light. Drivers under the age of 18 are entirely prohibited from using a phone while driving, even if they are using the hands-free feature. Being caught texting while driving in Indiana is a Class C offense and carries a $500 fine. Besides, multiple convictions can mean points on your license. Click here to learn more about texting and driving in Indiana.
Although advances in technology are meant to make our lives easier, relying on them entirely can actually cause us harm. More and more drives nowadays are choosing speech-to-text software when in need of sending out text messages while behind the wheel. Whereas this is a much better option than actually typing the text in yourself, a driver can easily be distracted even when dictating thoughts.
Take as an example typing in a normal text, especially an important one. Before hitting the send button, people will often think about the wording or the information introduced. A typed-in text will suffer quite a few changes before going live. With speech-to-text software, such modifications can actually lead to a lot more moments of distraction while driving than expected. This is exactly why a driver can be easily held liable for a car accident that has resulted because of speech-to-text usage.
While distracted driving is illegal in every state in the United States, the top four states on our list have the strictest laws on this dangerous practice, along with the harshest penalties. As a result, deaths, injuries, and crashes from distracted driving have consistently dropped in said states, making the roadways there safer for everyone.
Nevertheless, the best advice for any driver out there is to keep their hands on the wheel, their eyes on the road and their minds focused on preventive conduct. Although a sole second of distraction may not seem like such a big issue to many, it can turn out to be fatal for both drivers and pedestrians. All in all, putting a text message on hold until reaching your destination and parking your vehicle can literally be lifesaving. Drive safe!