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Texting and Driving: What You Need to Know

By : Douglas E. Chabot - Dec 21st, 2016

The dangers of texting while driving are readily apparent.  Texting distracts the driver from texting and drivingfocusing on the road.  When a driver’s focus drifts from the road to a phone or mobile device’s screen, accidents are more likely to occur.  Drivers should avoid texting while operating a motor vehicle for numerous reasons, primarily for your safety and the safety of those around you.

In addition to the issues of safety, in Rhode Island, texting while driving is a civil infraction punishable by a fine and loss of the driver’s license.  Specifically, the law provides that “No person shall use a wireless handset or personal wireless communication device to compose, read, or send text messages while driving a motor vehicle on any public street or public highway within the state of Rhode Island.” Drivers must be aware that the law broadly defines what constitutes a text message and, thereby, places the driver at considerable risk of violating the law.

The law defines a text message as “the process by which users send, read, or receive messages on a wireless handset, including, but not limited to, text messages, instant messages, electronic messages, or e-mails, in order to communicate with another person or device.”  By its very definition, the law encompasses texts, e-mails, and any use of an App on a phone such as Facebook or Snapchat.  Significantly, the definition of text message under the law is not limited to these specific forms of communication set forth in the law; references to e-mail and texts are simply examples that clearly run afoul of the law.

A recent decision by a Rhode Island court broadly interpreted what it means to “text” under the law to include virtually any use of a mobile device (that is not hands-free) while driving.  In State v. Furtado, the R.I. Traffic Tribunal held that a driver’s use of a GPS device on his mobile phone constituted texting while driving under the statute because the driver did not use a hands-free wireless device and the driver was observed by a police officer repeatedly looking at (reading) his phone to obtain directions.  The court held that “operating a cell phone for any purpose, including GPS, is prohibited by statute.”  The driver does not need to be typing or talking, just using the cell phone in a manner inconsistent with hands-free use to run a risk of violating the law.

The attorneys at Decof, Decof & Barry are committed to encouraging safer driving practices.  However, in the unfortunate event that you or a loved one suffers an injury, feel free to contact the attorneys at Decof, Decof & Barry, P.C. to discuss your case.  We have decades of experience reaching successful results for injured persons and their families in a broad range of personal injury cases, including for injuries suffered from automotive accidents.

Douglas E. Chabot

At Decof, Decof & Barry, Douglas Chabot practices in the fields of wrongful death, product liability, personal injury and medical malpractice. He has been selected as a Rising Star by New England Super Lawyers Magazine every year since 2013. Before joining the firm in 2010, Mr. Chabot served as a judicial law clerk for Associate Justice Francis X. Flaherty of the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Read full bio.
Dec 21st, 2016|