Apr 2013

Rhode Island Texting & Driving Ban Proves Controversial

Our Providence, RI accident attorneys believe that texting while driving is one of the most dangerous activities that a person can do while behind the wheel of an automobile. Distraction.gov has provided data indicating that a driver who is reading or writing a text is 23 times more likely to crash. A texting driver could also drive the whole length of a football field blind every second if he was going 55 miles per hour. Clearly, texting and driving is too risky for drivers and people need to be discouraged from this dangerous behavior.

Unfortunately, a recent article on GoLocalProv indicates that Rhode Island’s current ban on texting and driving is proving ineffective. A bill introduced in the House would change the current rule, making enforcement penalties much stricter. However, the new bill is very controversial and the Rhode Island branch of the ACLU has vowed to fight the law.

Rhode Island Texting and Driving Ban

The ban on texting and driving in the state of Rhode Island was originally passed two years ago.  Since its passage, drivers have received almost 600 tickets and been fined more than $36,000. Providence has issued the most tickets, with 39 in the area, while some local police departments have only issued five or fewer tickets.

The law imposes a fine of $85 for a first offense, defined as sending, reading or writing a text when driving. Fines go up to a $100 for a second offense and $125 for third and subsequent offenses.  Since the law has passed, only one ticket has been issued to a repeat offender.

However, Representative Charlene Lima and Attorney General Peter Kilmartin believe that more needs to be done. As such, Lima has introduced a bill that would put into place some of the strictest penalties for texting and driving laws in the entire country.

Under the proposed law, drivers would be required to install a device in their car after their first offense. The device would prevent text messaging and making cell phone calls except to 911 or to an emergency number.

If a driver was required to put the device in his or her car and was subsequently caught without it, the driver would be subject to a one year license suspension for a first offense. For a second or subsequent offense, the license suspension would increase to two years. The law would not permit any judge or magistrate to waive the license suspension requirement.

While these harsh penalties very likely would have a deterrent effect and stop people from texting and driving, they are being met with a great deal of controversy. The Rhode Island branch of the ACLU believes that the law would be a serious infringement on civil liberties.

Concerns about the new suggested penalties are not unfounded, especially as texting on a cell phone is a civil offense and not a criminal one like drunk driving. The concerns about the potential infringement on people’s rights will need to be weighed against the public safety interest in preventing texting and driving accidents.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact an experienced auto accident lawyer at 508-677-4900. The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl  serves clients in Providence, R.I., as well as Foxborough and Fall River, Mass.

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