DC Texting While Driving Laws
Concern over distracted driving fatalities in the nation’s capital have led to the enforcement of laws regarding cell phone use in DC since 2004. These laws are known collectively as the Distracted Driver Safety Act of 2004.
DC texting while driving laws are a reaction to the large number of traffic fatalities related to distracted driving. 20 percent of car accidents each year involve distractions, and 16 percent of fatal accidents involve the driver not paying attention to driving. About 16 percent of these accidents, which involve over 5,000 people a year, are related to texting, talking or Internet surfing on the phone while driving. It’s important for DC drivers to understand the texting while driving law so that they drive safely as well as avoid citations for distracted driving.
Unfortunately, many people are unaware of these laws and continue to text while driving. In 2011, DC police wrote over 11,000 tickets for texting while driving. The number of citations for breaking this law goes up every year; in 2005, DC police only wrote 7,500 tickets. Our experienced car accident attorneys in DC have developed the following information to help inform you about the Distracted Drivers Act of 2004.
DC Texting While Driving Law
As of November 2012, texting while driving is illegal in DC. Unlike many areas of the country, primary enforcement of this law is allowed in the District of Columbia. This means that the police can pull drivers over if they see them operating a cell phone while driving, even if the driver is not breaking any other traffic laws. Conversely, in many other parts of the United States, police can only pull drivers over if they violate other traffic laws while using their phones to text.
What the Ban Entails
DC’s ban on texting while driving prohibits any activity that requires the driver to type information into his or her phone while driving. Thus, in most cases, texting while driving is illegal. However, DC’s law does allow drivers to talk o the phone using hands-free devices. Thus, if you have the ability to dictate and send texts on your phone without having to hold the phone in your hands, you might be able to send texts while driving.
Drivers who are first learning to drive are subject to stricter laws than full-fledged drivers in the DC area. DC drivers who hold a learner’s permit are not allowed to operate a cell phone at all, regardless of whether they use hands-free devices or not. In addition, bus drivers are also banned from using a cell phone to text or talk while driving their bus, regardless of whether they use hands-free technology. Bus drivers can only use Bluetooth and other wireless technology to dictate texts if they are driving their personal vehicle, rather than their bus.
There are no exceptions to DC texting while driving laws There are exceptions to talking on the phone while driving; drivers may engage in this activity if they are calling 911 or other emergency services and may dial the telephone (but not talk on it) while driving. Drivers may also turn a cell phone on and off while driving.
Drivers who are caught texting while driving face a fine of up to $100. Drivers also receive one point on their license for each conviction for texting while driving. Thus, DC texting while driving laws can have an impact on the insurance premiums of those individuals cited for the crime.
Accidents and Texting
If a driver is determined to have been texting at the time of an accident, he or she may be considered at fault for the accident in addition to having to face legal consequences for texting while driving. This can result in thousands of dollars of liability for injuries and property damages; this sometimes results in the other driver filing a lawsuit.
Where The Law Is Enforced
The law is enforced both inside DC proper and in Fairfax, Virginia, which borders DC.
Distracted driving is a serious issue in DC, and many people violate DC texting while driving laws because they aren’t aware of them. Talk to an attorney to find out what your options are if you have been ticketed for texting while driving or have been involved in an accident related to distracted driving.