Texting and Driving: What You Need to Know
The dangers of texting while driving are readily apparent. Texting distracts the driver from focusing 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, Barry, Mega & Quinn 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, Barry, Mega & Quinn, 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.