Distracted driving is something that many of us have found ourselves guilty of at one point in time. There are numerous sources of distraction that can take our attention away from the road, such as talking on the phone, texting, adjusting the radio, using a GPS, applying makeup, eating, dealing with unruly kids in the backseat, etc. Regardless of the type of distraction, anything that takes our focus away from driving increases our chances of being involved in an accident. This article will take a look at the effects of distracted driving and analyze Louisiana’s laws regarding cell phone use.
The latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows there were 3,477 people killed and an estimated additional 391,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015. This means that 10% of all fatal crashes in 2015 were related to distracted driving. Additionally, 15% of crashes resulted in injuries and 14% of all crashes reported to police involved distracted drivers. And 9% of drivers, ages 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of a fatal crash.
The subset of distracted driving that has received the most attention in recent years is cell phone usage; as a result, you’ll find many ad campaigns trying to bring awareness to fatal accidents caused by someone in the middle of sending a text message. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration considers texting the most dangerous distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds; at 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. More than one-third of people surveyed admit to reading a text or email while driving in the past 30 days, and more than one-quarter admit to sending a text or email.
Although texting while driving has been getting the most attention recently, studies show that people talking on a cell phone are involved in more crashes than those texting. In 2010, an estimated minimum of 160,000 crashes involved texting or emailing, compared to 1.1 million crashes involving talking on cell phones.
One study indicated crash risk was two to six times greater when drivers were using a cell phone compared to when they were not distracted. The NHTSA estimates that at any point during the day, 9% of drivers are using cell phones. In 2016, the National Occupant Protection Use Survey found that handheld cell phone use continued to be higher among female drivers than male drivers; it also found that handheld cell phone use continued to be highest among 16- to 24-year-old drivers, and lowest among drivers 70 and older. However, one study showed a bit of good news, a sign that awareness campaigns about cell phone use may be working: the percentage of passenger vehicle driver handheld cell phone use decreased from 3.8 percent in 2015 to 3.3 percent in 2016.
Now that you know the extent of the danger involving cell phone usage while driving, here are the laws the state of Louisiana has enacted to combat this distraction:
- Anyone with a learner’s permit may not talk on the phone at any time unless its use is for emergency purposes.
- For all other drivers, you may legally talk on your cell phone even if you are not using a hands-free device unless you are in a school zone. If you are driving in a school zone, you may not engage in a call.
- It is illegal for any driver in Louisiana to write, read, or send a text message while driving; it is also illegal to access, read, or post to a social networking site. Under this statute, you will not be found in violation if you are reading, selecting, or entering a phone number or name in your phone; it is also not a violation if you are navigating using a GPS.
- In addition to being considered a moving violation, the penalties for texting/using social media or using a phone while in a school zone are the following:
- Up to $500 for a first offense
- Up to $1,000 for each subsequent offense
- If involved in a crash at the time, double the standard offense
In today’s world, distractions are all too common while driving. However, no matter how good of a driver or multitasker you think you are, it’s smart to minimize distractions as much as possible and devote your attention to the road so that you (or someone else) don’t become one of these statistics.