Distracted Driving Facts

Distracted driving is an increasing problem in the United States. Nearly 3,500 people died in 2015 as the result of distracted driving, which includes talking on the phone, texting, adjusting the radio, and anything else that takes a driver’s attention away from the road. Distracted driving may lead to an accident, and may also lead to other legal trouble.

In general, a driver must always see what a reasonable person would see and act as a reasonable person would act and keep their vehicle under proper control. In Virginia, some specific types of distracted driving are illegal and can lead to a citation even if there is not an accident. If there is an accident, a judge or jury may find a driver negligent for violating one of these prohibitions.

Distracted Driving Can Lead To A Reckless Driving Charge

A driver who is distracted in such a way that they are not properly controlling their vehicle could be charged with Reckless Driving. Reckless driving is driving a vehicle “at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person,” which could include driving dangerously because of distracted driving.

Reckless Driving is a Class One misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of twelve months in jail, a $2,500 fine, and a license suspension, not to mention the six demerit points against your license.

Texting While Driving Is A Common Type Of Distracted Driving

Probably the most common distracted driving infraction specifically made illegal is texting while driving. A driver on a Virginia roadway may not use a handheld personal communications device “to manually enter multiple letters or text in the device as a means of communicating with another person” (texting); or to read an e-mail or text message transmitted to or stored within the device.

It is not against the law to look up a phone number or check caller ID, but common sense dictates even that should not be done unless it is safe to look away from the road for a moment. It also is not illegal to use your phone for GPS/directions while you are driving, and you can text while driving to report an emergency. Of course, the safest thing to do is to wait until your vehicle is not moving, at which point none of the prohibitions apply; most text messages can wait until you have stopped moving.

Driving With Earphones Is Considered Distracted Driving

Another illegal, but less common, source of distracted driving is to drive with earphones covering both ears. In Virginia, it is unlawful “to operate a motor vehicle, bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, or moped on the highways in the Commonwealth while using earphones on or in both ears.”

An “earphone” is “any device worn on or in both ears that converts electrical energy to sound waves or which impairs or hinders the person’s ability to hear” other than a hearing aid, earphones installed in certain motorcycle helmets used as part of a communication system, and some noise-canceling headphones in commercial situations. It should also be noted that this restriction applies to many vehicles besides automobiles. Note that the law proscribes having a headphone in BOTH ears; a one-ear cell phone earpiece should be acceptable.

Playing Video Visible To The Driver While A Vehicle Is In Motion Is Considered Distracted Driving

Another thing people may not realize is against the law is having a television, movie, or similar video display visible to the driver while the vehicle is in motion. Electronic displays for your radio or your GPS system are okay, as are video displays used to help the driver see around the vehicle. It is fine to show a movie to the people in the back seat, as long as the driver is not able to see the screen.

If you have been hit by a distracted driver through no fault of your own, contact Joannou & Associates anytime, 24/7!

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