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