Cell phones are among the most common driving distractions. Distracted driving is a dangerous practice that leads to accidents, injuries, and fatalities. According to the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission’s landmark study on distracted driving, more than 200 motorists died between 2011 and 2015, and almost 27,000 were injured as a result of distracted driving, including those who were using cell phones while driving.
The dangers of distracted driving and using cell phones behind the wheel have come to the forefront of public safety concerns, prompting states across the nation to take action to create, implement, and enforce laws regarding cell phones while driving. Louisiana is among the states who have taken action against drivers using cell phones in recent years.
Below we provide an overview of the dangers of driving while using a cell phone and the laws in Louisiana regarding cell phone use while driving.
Why Is Cell Phone Use Behind the Wheel So Dangerous?
The accepted definition of distracted driving in Louisiana and throughout the United States is any activity that impacts a driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. Three different types of driver distractions exist:
- Visual distractions are anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road such as looking at magazines, books, directions, a GPS, or looking in a purse or backpack.
- Manual distractions are anything that takes a driver’s hands off the steering wheel such as adjusting the radio or climate controls, programming a GPS, personal grooming, eating, and drinking.
- Cognitive distractions include any activity that takes a driver’s mind off driving such as daydreaming, arguments or heavy discussions with passengers, and thinking about other things besides driving.
The above distraction types are not mutually exclusive. Many common driver distractions interfere with driving in at least two out of three ways. When drivers use their cell phones to text or email while driving, they suffer visual, cognitive, and manual distractions, which makes using a cell phone one of the most dangerous things a driver can do in behind the wheel.
Cell Phone Usage Laws While Driving in Louisiana
When people who suffer injuries in car accidents take legal action against the at-fault driver, it’s common for insurance investigators and lawyers to obtain copies of cell phone records to see whether drivers were distracted by their phones when the accident occurs. If investigators find evidence of phone calls or text messages, the at-fault driver might be guilty of breaking one or more of the following laws about cell phone use while driving in Louisiana:
- No driver can use any type of wireless communication device to write, send, or read text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle.
- No driver can use any type of wireless communication device to access, read, or post to social networking sites while driving, which includes any web-based service that allows users to build a profile and connect with other users.
- Drivers are strictly prohibited from wearing headphones or headsets that cover both ears while driving. Drivers can use their cell phones with a headset as long as they only use one ear.
- Cell phone use of any type is prohibited in school zones. This includes all the following activities: accessing, reading, and posting to social networking sites, talking or listening on the phone, and writing, sending, or reading text-based communication.
- Teen drivers under the age of 16 who have their permits are absolutely prohibited from any cell phone use while driving, including hands-free. This restriction extends for the first year someone holds their driver’s license if they are under age 18.
- Unlicensed adult drivers who have driving permits are also banned from all handheld wireless devices while driving.
Exceptions to Louisiana Laws Regarding Cell Phones While Driving
Louisiana’s distracted driving laws do provide for exceptions in the case of emergency and for specific occupations. Law enforcement officers, firefighters, and drivers of authorized emergency vehicles can use their phone while driving as long as they are performing official duties, such as using the phone to communicate information with or between an operator and/or dispatcher. Doctors and other healthcare providers can use a cell phone to call a hospital, health clinic, office, or make any calls or texts necessary to provide care for an individual in a medical emergency.
The exceptions for cell phone use while driving that applies to other motorists include using a cell phone for any of these reasons:
- Reporting illegal activity including a crime in action or a potential crime against the driver or another person
- Reporting a traffic accident, a dangerous road hazard, a medical emergency, or calling for medical or emergency assistance
- Using a phone to prevent injury to another person or property
- Using a cell phone to report a situation where the driver believes his or her personal safety is in jeopardy
- Using a cell phone for calling, texting, or any other purpose when the vehicle is legally parked
Contact an Attorney After Suffering Injuries from a Distracted Driver
If you have sustained injuries in a traffic accident at the hands of a driver distracted by their cell phone, Louisiana law permits you to seek compensation for damages in civil court. If your injuries are severe, you’ve likely taken time away from your job and medical bills are rolling in. The financial pressure of suffering accident injuries compounds the physical pain victims experience from injury and recovery. You shouldn’t have to cope with the pain or the economic burden when another driver’s negligent actions harmed you.
Allan Berger has close to four decades of experience representing injured accident victims in New Orleans, surrounding areas, and throughout Louisiana. Let one of the skilled accident injury attorneys at Allan Berger & Associates help you through this challenging time by advocating for you through the claims process, communicating with the insurance company, and handling the finer details of your case, while you focus on rehabilitation. Contact us online or at 504-526-2222 to discuss the circumstances of your accident and learn about the best path forward for your situation.