Do Laws on Distracted Driving and Texting Prevent Accidents? (Cautions From Our Salina, Kansas Personal Injury Attorneys)

Young Man Texting While Driving - Hampton & Royce, L.C.

As personal injury attorneys, we witness the personal and family tragedies caused by distracted drivers. We know that injuries and deaths resulting from distracted-driving accidents are preventable. Laws on distracted driving and texting help, but they are not the only answer. Everyone should understand what distracted driving is, know why it is so dangerous, and make a commitment to avoiding the risks.

Kansas laws prohibiting some forms of distracted driving, including texting, date back to 2011. Yet, the most recent available statistics show that in 2016, distracted driving factored into 2,351 Kansas accidents. In those crashes, 15 people died and 974 were injured.

After release of those statistics, the significant increase in Kansas traffic fatalities over several years led state troopers to issue a warning about distracted driving. The warning even included suggestions for using technology to prevent distracted-driving temptations associated with cell phone use.

What Is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving occurs in many different ways. Using cell phones is one of the most common forms, but it is not the only kind of distracted driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving can be one of three different types:

  • Visual: Diverting your eyes from the road while driving
  • Manual: Taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive: Concentrating on something other than driving

Any one of these types of distracted driving can cause an accident. Often, your distraction can involve two or three types at once.

When you are driving, any activity other than driving constitutes distracted driving. Examples that occur frequently include:

  • Talking on a cellphone
  • Texting and using email
  • Chatting with passengers
  • Taking care of children
  • Tending to pets
  • Eating and drinking
  • Smoking
  • Changing clothes
  • Reading maps or directions
  • Personal grooming (applying makeup, brushing hair, and shaving)
  • Reaching for objects, including cell phones
  • Watching videos
  • Adjusting audio devices or other controls

Every one of these distracted-driving activities can cause an accident.

Kansas Laws on Distracted Driving and Texting While Driving

Distracted driving is not always illegal. Kansas prohibits some — but not all — forms of distracted driving.

Texting from any wireless communication device while in a vehicle on a public road or highway is illegal for all Kansas drivers. (The ban applies even if your car is stopped in traffic or at a light or stop sign.)

Adult drivers are not prohibited from talking on a cell phone or other hand-held device. However, young drivers cannot use any device for any reason and are subject to other specific laws designed to prevent distractions.

Kansas distracted driving laws include the following provisions:

  • All drivers are prohibited from text messaging (reading, writing, or sending) on any device, with limited exceptions noted below
  • Drivers between the ages of 14 and 17 with an Instruction Permit and drivers with a Restricted Licenseor Farm Permit cannot use a wireless communication device for any purpose other than reporting illegal activity or summoning medical or emergency help
  • Drivers under the age of 16 with a Restricted License or Farm License cannot have any non-sibling passengers under age 18 in the car
  • Drivers between the ages of 16 and 18 cannot have more than one non-immediate family passenger under the age of 18 in the car

According to the statute (KSA 8-15,111), the texting prohibition does not apply to these situations:

(1) A law enforcement officer or emergency service personnel acting within the course and scope of the law enforcement officer's or emergency service personnel's employment;
(2) a motor vehicle stopped off the regular traveled portion of the roadway;
(3) a person who reads, selects or enters a telephone number or name in a wireless communications device for the purpose of making or receiving a phone call;
(4) a person who receives an emergency, traffic or weather alert message; or
(5) a person receiving a message related to the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle.

That section of the law also states that a wireless device may be used to:

(1) Report current or ongoing illegal activity to law enforcement;
(2) prevent imminent injury to a person or property; or
(3) relay information between transit or for-hire operator and the operator's dispatcher, in which the device is permanently affixed to the motor vehicle.

Depending on the violation, failing to abide by Kansas distracted driving laws can result in:

  • Fines
  • Suspension of driving privileges
  • Court costs and attorney’s fees
  • Increased insurance rates

In addition, depending on the circumstances, any distracted driving (even if it doesn't violate a specific law) can lead to a reckless driving charge. If distracted driving causes another person’s death, the driver could face a vehicular homicide charge.

Distracted Driving Facts and Statistics

Facts and statistics about distracted driving are plentiful — and often shocking. This short list of some of the most significant facts should convince everyone to concentrate on driving and avoid distractions, even those that are not against Kansas laws.

  • Nationwide, 80% of accidents involve distracted driving
  • Distracted driving accounts for about 25% of all traffic deaths
  • At least 10 people in the U.S. die every day because of distracted driving
  • Experts claim that crashes, injuries, and deaths from distracted driving are significantly under-reported
  • A driver using a hand-held device is 23 times more likely to have an accident
  • Hands-free cell phone use while driving is no safer than hand-held cell phone use
  • If you take your eyes off the road, it takes only three seconds for a crash to occur
  • If you take your eyes off the road for five seconds (the average texting time) when going 55 mph, it’s like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed
  • More than 80% of drivers admit to carrying on dangerous, distracting activities while driving
  • 65% of dog owners admit to being driving distracted when the dog is in the car
  • Distracted driving diminishes your awareness of how safely (or unsafely) you are driving
  • Like drunk drivers, distracted drivers who get away with it tend to continue their distracting activities until they get caught or have an accident
  • Young drivers make more mistakes than adults when distracted while driving

The facts and statistics support only one conclusion: Any kind of distracted driving is extremely dangerous to you, your family, and other passengers. It also creates a significant risk to other motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists who travel the same road that you do.

To answer our title question: Distracted driving laws and the texting ban likely do prevent some accidents. However, given the recent increase in Kansas traffic injuries and deaths — many of which are caused by distracted driving — it is also clear that many more accidents could be prevented if all drivers avoid distracted driving of any kind.

Talk With Our Experienced Salina, Kansas Personal Injury Attorneys

If you suffered serious injuries in an accident, including one caused by a distracted driver, our trusted Salina, Kansas personal injury attorneys at Hampton & Royce, L.C. are here to help. We serve clients throughout the state. Contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss your accident with us.

Categories: Personal Injury Law