Cell Phones and Text Messaging

Notes from Law Technology News Online Update November 17, 2008.

Cell Phones

“If you use a handheld device while driving in California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, or Washington (state or D.C.), you are breaking the law. Utah and New Hampshire have some mention of handheld cell phone use – but mostly as a means of enacting distracted driver laws. Some jurisdictions have bans in certain cities (including Phoenix and Detroit).”

“If you’re a novice driver (and jurisdictions vary on what constitutes “novice”), you are banned from using all cell phones while driving within D.C. and 18 states. D.C. and 17 states have also banned the use of handheld cell phones when operating a school bus when passengers are present (except emergencies)”

“There are some exceptions. In California, commercial drivers are exempted from the ban until the year 2011. Connecticut and D.C. have exemptions for some professions as well. And while certain locales have addressed handheld cell phone devices, no states have completely banned the use of all cell phones while operating a vehicle.”

Text Messaging.

“What’s more amazing than cell phone use are people texting or reading text messages while driving. Perhaps equally amazing is that it’s not illegal in most jurisdictions. Let’s break this down. You’re holding the device in one hand, texting with the other – so where does that leave maneuvering the steering wheel or watching the road. I’ve talked to several compulsive texters who say it’s O.K. for them but they wouldn’t want anyone else doing it. (Are you nuts? Just read about the five cheerleaders killed in a 2007 New York crash where a 17-year-old driver was texting. See http://tinyurl.com/LTNteens.)”

“But only six jurisdictions outlaw text messaging while driving: Alaska, California, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey and Washington. And what will you be fined next year in California when the law takes place if you are caught text messaging while driving: $20 fine for a first offense, and $50 for repeat offenders – but I guess we have to start somewhere.”

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