We have all seen it, and though we will likely deny it, we have all done it: driving distracted. Glance at your neighbors as you drive down the road and you will witness people texting, reading maps, selecting music, eating, putting on makeup-the list is endless. We all know it's an unnecessary and potentially dangerous habit, but did you also know that you can get into legal trouble as well? If you were involved in an accident that resulted in injury or fatalities and the cause was distracted driving, you could be in hot water.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, so it seems fitting that we illuminate some of the facts about the issue in Connecticut. Behavioral analysts at UConn's Connecticut Transportation Safety Research Center have done studies that point to nearly 90% of vehicle crashes as being caused by human error. There were nearly 7,472 crashes in 2015 that were the result of distracted driving.
In Connecticut, it is illegal to use handheld devices while driving (there are a few exceptions for emergency situations). Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from all cell phone calls, even those that are “hands-free.” All drivers are prohibited from texting while driving.
HOW IS THE LAW ENFORCED?
Penalties for driving distracted vary by the number of offenses and can also be different if there were any other types of incidents involved. For instance, if a driver is pulled over for using a cell phone while driving, the fine for the first offense will be $125. Second offenders will be charged $250, and each offense after that will cost $400. Texting has its own set of fines and consequences, and if you are 18 or younger there are other penalties as well.
DISTRACTED DRIVING AND PERSONAL INJURY CASES
In the U.S. in 2014, 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 were injured in automobile crashes involving distracted drivers (Distraction.gov). Personal injury lawsuits in cases of distracted driving accidents are becoming more and more prevalent even as the rise in distracted driving accidents continues to rise. In Connecticut, there are no specific penalties for causing an accident that leads to a fatality by driving distracted; however, you may be charged with another applicable crime such as negligent homicide with a motor vehicle, misconduct with a motor vehicle, or 2nd degree manslaughter. Penalties for these crimes vary in severity, from a prison sentence of up to six months to one to ten years. Fines can range from $1,000-$10,000.
Inversely, if you were the victim of an accident caused by a distracted driver, you may have cause to seek a personal injury attorney and seek reparations. As with any accident, there may be damage both to you and your vehicle which could lead to auto-repair expenses or medical expenses; if your injuries were severe enough to warrant lifelong treatments, those expenses will add up over time.
For more information, contact Cummings Law Firm. We are ready to help today.