Driving safely means paying attention to a lot of things at the same time.  You must keep your eyes on the road ahead of you, but also check your rearview and side-view mirrors at the right times, looking at them long enough to know whether there are cars behind you or to your right or left, yet without taking your focus off the road ahead of you for too long.  You must be aware of the sounds around you, but not so much that they take your mind off the road.

Of course, the things you must notice are very few compared to the things you must not let distract you. Potential distractions are everywhere when you are driving, from the conversation you anticipate having with your boss at work to the “opening soon” sign for a new restaurant on your commuting route, from the baby crying in the back seat to your mental calculations about how little money will be left in your bank account after you pay for childcare. 

Distractions have been a challenge for drivers ever since the invention of the automobile, but mobile phones present a special kind of distraction, a kind that greatly increases the likelihood of getting into a car accident, and Rhode Island lawmakers have passed new legislation to address it. If you have been injured in a car accident involving a distracted driver, contact a Rhode Island car accident lawyer.

The New Law: No Hand-Held Wireless Communication Devices

A law banning the use of hand-held wireless communication devices, in other words, smartphones and other kinds of cell phones, while driving went into effect in Rhode Island on June 1, 2018.  These are some of the provisions of the law.

  • It is illegal to hold a phone in your hand while driving, whether you are using it to talk, text, or use an app.
  • You may not use headphones while driving.  If you use earbuds, only one can be in your ear while you are driving.
  • You may talk on the phone while driving as long as you use Bluetooth technology to connect your phone to your car’s speaker system or a hands-free earpiece.
  • The penalty for violating this law is a $100 fine.

Phones in the Car Are Not Always Bad

While distracted driving is dangerous, having a smartphone in the car can help keep you safe.  GPS navigation can help you decide when to change lanes and where to turn, and it does not present a distraction as long as you use a Bluetooth audio connection to hear the commands.  To be even safer, look at the entire route on the map before you start listening to the directions. If you are in a car accident, a smartphone lets you call for help. It also enables you to call your insurance company immediately and give an accurate report.  A phone camera lets you take pictures of the scene of the accident.

Preventing Distracted Driving Accidents 

Much emphasis has been made on the dangers of drunk driving, but distracted driving is even more deadly, killing roughly nine people and injuring more than 1,000 people in motor vehicle accidents in the United States each day. Smartphones are a massive distraction to teenagers and adults, as people spend an average of 3 hours or more on their phones each day, including behind the wheel (despite laws prohibiting it). According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driving a vehicle while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. Distracted driving is not just texting and driving. It can be:

  • Browsing the internet or social media while driving
  • Playing cell phone games while driving
  • Using GPS navigation systems while driving
  • Watching videos or movies while driving
  • Changing music while driving
  • Eating and drinking while driving
  • Applying makeup or shaving while driving
  • Reading or looking at maps while driving.

In Rhode Island, drivers cannot hold a cell phone or other wireless device while operating a vehicle. If a law enforcement officer observes you holding a phone and using it while driving, you will be pulled over and may be fined up to $100.

Statistics About Driving and Cell Phone Use  

It is difficult for law enforcement to determine driver activity prior to a crash, so exact statistics regarding driver distraction won’t ever be known. According to the National Safety Council, about 1.6 million crashes each year are caused by cell phone use while driving. More than 90 percent of teen drivers have acknowledged that texting and driving are dangerous, but 35% admitted to doing it anyway.

Law enforcement agencies and insurance companies have created numerous public awareness campaigns to remind drivers of the dangers of distracted driving if you find yourself reaching for your phone while driving, leave your phone out of reach and keep it in the back seat.

Contact Dana and Dana About Car Accident Cases

A personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you have been injured by a distracted driver.  Contact Dana and Dana, a personal injury law firm in Providence, Rhode Island to see if you have grounds for a lawsuit.