DC Cellphone Driving Laws
Driving is dangerous to begin with but when you add in distractions like talking on the phone and texting, it can become deadly. In Washington DC, officials have enacted a cell phone ban preventing drivers from talking on hand-held cell phones, making it a punishable offense. If you were in of a motor vehicle accident in DC because a driver was on his or her cellphone, please contact a DC car accident attorney today.
According to the District of Columbia Code 50-1731.04, there are some elements that make Washington DC cellphone driving laws different than other states, including the provision that novice drivers and those who drive buses are not allowed to use a cell phone regardless of whether they are using a hands free device.
Stipulations of the Law
There are stipulations in the DC cellphone driving laws. The first is that drivers can manually dial a number on their cell phone, just as long as they do not have the phone against their ear while driving. This means that a person can be holding a cell phone inches away from their ear and if they are pulled over, tell the officer they were just dialing. Texting is covered under the DC law stating that texting is considered an offense under the cell phone laws of DC. \There are a few types of drivers who are not allowed to use cell phones at all when driving the first includes those who are new at driving, or novice drivers. In Washington DC, drivers who only have a learner’s permit are not allowed to use any type of phone while driving, whether it is hands free or not, it is simply not allowed. Also, bus drivers are not allowed to use cell phones while they are on duty since this act has proven to cause serious accidents in which the city could be held liable for.
Washington DC is more lenient than other places when it comes to the fines for disobeying cellphone laws. The first offense will see the fine suspended so it is more like a warning than anything. The next offenses however; will see fines of up to $100 for each offense. This fine does not seem like much compared to other places where the fine is up to $300.
The cellphone driving law in DC is considered a primary offense meaning, that if a police officer sees a person on a cellular device, they can pull that person over simply for being on the phone. They do not need any other reason to stop and issue a citation. Many other states and cities are beginning to make the cell phone bans a primary offense but most still only consider it a secondary offense where the officer can ticket for the offense but there needs to be another reason for the person to be pulled over in the first place.
There is no risk of losing a license or going to jail for talking on the phone while driving in DC although should there be an accident of any kind due to the inattentiveness of the driver, then that driver could be charged with additional offenses. Distracted driving can fall under the careless driving category, therefore, if an accident is the result of breaking the cell phone ban, the driver can be charged with reckless or careless driving, depending on the extent of the damages caused.
There are exemptions to the DC cellphone driving laws. The exemptions include anytime a person has some form of emergency where they need to dial 911, a hospital or police or a fire department. Law enforcement and emergency services are all exempt while they are on the job. This means that if a police officer is in the patrol car conducting police business on their cell phones.
Anyone driving in the DC area can prevent themselves from getting the $100 fine simply by using a hands-free device. A hands-free device can be any number of things. The most commonly used is the bluetooth headset that clips onto the ear of the driver, it is like a mini headphone with a mic for talking on the phone. Another device is that of the audio system in the vehicle. Some vehicles now come with bluetooth connectivity so drivers can talk on the phone directly through the audio system of the car; wirelessly. The other option is one that many people do not realize. If the audio system on the car does not include bluetooth but it has an auxiliary jack, when the phone is plugged into the jack, anytime the driver goes to make a call it turns the audio system into a speakerphone. This works similar to the built-in bluetooth but it requires a data cable.