Tips for avoiding a distracted driving accident—and what to do if you’re a victim
Rhode Island has laws against using hand-held devices while texting and driving. But there are other types of distractions, too, and they are just as dangerous.
Anything that causes a distraction while driving is dangerous.
Distracted driving is anything that involves one or more of the following:
- Removing your hands from the steering wheel;
- Taking your eyes off the road; or
- Taking your brain off the task of driving.
Some distractions are just one of these, but some—like using a mobile phone—are all three.
Most of us believe that we’re good drivers (and we probably are), but nearly everyone has been distracted behind the wheel at one time or another, and hopefully you’ve been lucky that it never led to a crash.
But sometimes it does. Below you’ll learn the Rhode Island distracted driving laws, who’s liable for a distracted driving accident, and what to do if it happens to you.
Rhode Island distracted driving laws
Rhode Island texting and driving
Rhode Island law generally prohibits all drivers from texting while driving. This includes writing, reading, or sending text messages using a mobile phone or another device. You may use your phone in hands-free mode.
Rhode Island also prohibits the use of handheld electronic devices (including, but not limited to, phones) while driving. Drivers over 18 can use hands-free accessories to use their phones, but manual data entry and browsing are generally not allowed.
A driver under 18 is usually not allowed to use a mobile phone at all while driving, except for emergency calls to 911.
Certain exceptions are often made for emergencies or professional roles where a communication device is essential (like emergency services personnel).
Penalties for Rhode Island distracted driving violations
Rhode Island penalties for texting and driving
The following fines apply to using a handheld device while driving:
|First offense||Fine up to $100|
|Second offense||Fine up to $150|
|Third and subsequent offenses||Fine up to $250|
A minor driver or a driver with a learner’s permit is prohibited from any mobile device use while driving, except for emergency calls. In addition to fines, these drivers could face delays in progressing to a full driver’s license if the rules are violated.
Commercial drivers could face federal penalties, including potentially losing their commercial driver's license (CDL) for repeated offenses.
Depending on the severity of the incident, a driver who violates the distracted driving laws could also have points added to their license and might even face criminal charges if someone is injured or killed.
Dangers of distracted driving
When it comes to distracted driving, using a mobile phone is just the tip of the iceberg.
There are other ways to be distracted, too. Here are just a few examples:
- Eating and drinking: Consuming food or reaching for a beverage can take your eyes off the road for longer than you think.
- Talking to passengers: Deep conversations or heated arguments can divert your attention. Even casual conversations can be distracting; it’s most people’s nature to make eye contact when they speak with someone and a quick glance at your passenger can still take your eyes off the road.
- Grooming: Applying makeup, hair brushing, or shaving while driving is more common than you'd expect.
- Map reading: Even glancing at a map can be enough to cause a problem.
- Adjusting controls: Changing the radio station, climate control, or GPS settings can all be distractions.
Rhode Island distracted driving injuries and fatalities
Distracted driving is not a trivial issue; it has real-world implications. In Rhode Island, statistics paint a grim picture. According to recent data, nearly 10% of all road fatalities in the state are due to distracted driving. Hundreds of people are injured each year in distracted driving incidents.
Drivers under the age of 24 are more likely to engage in distracted driving and are also over-represented in the statistics.
Can you avoid distracted driving?
You can. But some of us habitually engage in behaviors that we don’t even realize can be a distraction.
Follow these tips for safer, distraction-free driving:
- Plan ahead: Set your GPS and playlists before you start driving.
- Go hands-free: Invest in quality hands-free devices if you must talk on the phone. Set up your phone with your vehicle’s CarPlay or Bluetooth so that it automatically connects whenever you get in the car.
- Keep snacks simple: If you have to eat, choose items that are easy to manage. Most of us can manage some water or a bagel while driving, but avoid messy food or anything that requires two hands.
- Stay calm: Emotional or mental distractions can be as dangerous as physical ones. You can’t always control your emotional state, but if you feel as though your mind is not able to focus on driving, take a break or ask someone else to drive. It’s always better to wait and be a little late arriving at your destination than to get into a crash and not arrive at all.
Who is liable for a distracted driving accident?
If you're involved in a distracted driving accident, determining liability can be complicated. Typically, the distracted driver will be found at fault. However, there could be other parties who share some of the blame, like employers if the driver was on the job, or even passengers who were knowingly distracting the driver.
Rhode Island is an at-fault state, which means the person who caused the accident is the one who is responsible for paying for victims’ personal injury costs.
However, proving that a driver was distracted can be tricky. If the distraction was phone-related, your lawyer could subpoena phone records from the mobile provider that could show certain data regarding whether the phone was in use at the time of the crash. However, if it was a different type of distraction (eating, grooming, etc.), then the only true way to know is if there are witnesses, if the driver makes an admission, or if surveillance video like a dash cam or other type of recording device captures the accident with a clear view of the driver’s behavior.
You should contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible following a distracted driving accident. They can guide you through the complexities of the legal system and ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Remember, the law is complex, and you shouldn’t navigate it alone, especially when you’re recovering from an accident.
In summary, distracted driving is a pervasive problem with legal ramifications and the potential to cause physical harm. By understanding the laws in Rhode Island, the types of distractions, and how to avoid them, you can make the roads safer for everyone. And if you find yourself involved in a distracted driving accident, know that legal help is available to guide you through the complex process of securing the compensation you deserve.