The Louisiana Division of Administration’s state-wide motto to combat distracted driving is Take back your drive.
Many of us don’t realize just how much is being taken from us by distracted driving.
Consider this: When a driver reads a text message at 55 mph, it’s equivalent to driving the length of a football field blindfolded. The minds, eyes, and hands of drivers in Louisiana are increasingly being held captive by the lure of cell phone use behind the wheel. It’s temping—one quick glance at a screen can’t hurt anything, right? But the statistics say otherwise.
- It’s estimated that more than one out of four car crashes involves cell phone use, including hands-free phone use.
- Nine people are killed every day in the United States by distracted driving.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) now lists distracted driving as one of the top causes of traffic deaths in the United States.
Louisiana texting and driving laws exist to help protect motorists, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians from the fatal consequences of distracted driving.
If you or a loved one was involved in a motor vehicle accident caused by distracted driving or another type of motorist negligence, schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with the skilled and compassionate attorneys of Bianca | Matkins personal injury law firm.
Texting and Driving Laws in Louisiana
The law in our state is clear—texting and driving is illegal in Louisiana.
Here is a summary of Louisiana texting and driving laws you need to know if driving a car in Baton Rouge or elsewhere in the state:
- You may not operate a motor vehicle on any public road or highway while using a mobile device (cell phone, computer, tablet, or other wireless device) to write, send, or read text messages.
- You may not access, post, or read social media on a mobile device while operating a vehicle.
There are a few exceptions to these Louisiana texting and driving laws. You may only use text-based communications when you are:
- A law enforcement officer, firefighter, or operator of an authorized emergency vehicle performing job duties
- A physician or other medical provider communicating with a hospital, clinic, or office to provide health care for an individual
- Reporting illegal activity
- Summoning medical or emergency help
- Acting in a way that prevents injury to a person or property
- Working as a for-hire operator and sending messages to a dispatcher
- Navigating using a GPS
- Entering or reading a phone number
Penalties for Violating Louisiana Texting and Driving Laws
A violation of any Louisiana texting and driving law is considered a moving violation and is punishable based on the following fine schedule:
- A fine of no more than $500 for a first offense
- A fine of no more than $1,000 for each subsequent offense
- A fine double the standard amount if the driver is involved in a crash
In the case of a car crash, the police officer responding to the scene will make a note in the official car accident report stating that they believe texting and driving (or other mobile device use) was a contributing factor in the collision. This accident report will then be used by attorneys and insurance adjusters when making determinations regarding liability for the crash and related damages.
Is Handheld Cell Phone Use Banned in Louisiana?
While handheld device use is already illegal in many states, it is currently only banned in marked school zones and under certain conditions in Louisiana:
- All drivers under 18 are prohibited from using any cell phones while operating a vehicle.
- Drivers with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses (regardless of age) may not use handheld devices.
- All drivers (regardless of age) issued a first driver’s license are prohibited from using a cell phone for one year.
In 2022, a Louisiana House Bill (HB 376) that proposed to make handheld device use illegal for all drivers passed in the state House with a vote of 55-38. If this bill is eventually enacted into law, Louisiana drivers may face fines for using any cell phone that is not hands-free.
What Does Hands-Free Mean in a Car?
At this point in time, most drivers are still allowed to physically pick up their cell phones and make a call while driving. But safety experts recommend using only hands-free devices when operating a vehicle. And if legislation passes, that may soon become the law in Louisiana, just as it has in over 20 other states.
But those who aren’t familiar with the term “hands-free” may be asking: How do I make a hands-free cell phone call in the car? A hands-free call is one that allows you to speak and listen on the phone without physically holding the device. This is usually done by using:
- An earpiece (like a Bluetooth earpiece) connected to your phone,
- The vehicle’s dashboard system (if equipped with phone compatibility), or
- The speakerphone function on a dashboard-mounted cell phone
How To Be a Safe Driver on the Roads of Louisiana
We know texting and driving kills. In a recent survey conducted by Farmers Insurance, 87% of surveyed drivers affirmatively stated that using a cell phone while driving poses a serious threat to others. At the same time, 53% admitted to using a phone while driving, and 45% admitted to texting behind the wheel.
It seems that optimism bias is nowhere more prevalent than in the driver’s seat. Despite knowledge of the risk, countless individuals continue to text and drive every single time they get behind the wheel.
One of the most dangerous aspects of texting and driving is the example it sets for the next generation. Already in our nation, drivers aged 15-20 are more likely to use a cell phone than drivers over 21, according to CDC statistics. This marks a disturbing trend in both the prevalence of distracted driving and the rising fatality rates that accompany increased cell phone usage.
All of us—no matter how old we are or how experienced we may be as drivers—have a responsibility to drive safely and model safe behaviors for others. This is the only way we can reverse the trend of distracted driving accidents that kills thousands of people every year.
Follow these tips to avoid distracted driving:
- Place your phone in a closed bag in the back seat or in the trunk before you start driving
- Use a text-blocking and call-blocking app if you need to have your cell phone near you
- Ask people not to call you or text you during times you know you will be driving
- Do not eat, drink, apply makeup, or engage in other distracting activities when driving
- Make sure children and pets are secured safely and not able to move around the car
- As much as possible, create a calm environment inside the vehicle
- Ask a passenger to help you navigate rather than looking at a map or screen yourself
- Set up a playlist, so you aren’t tempted to adjust your music while driving
- Limit the number of passengers in your vehicle (this is especially important for teen drivers)
Legal Help for Those Injured by Another Driver’s Negligence
Louisiana texting and driving laws are meant to keep our citizens safe, but they can’t protect us against the behaviors of those who choose to violate these laws.
You have legal rights if you were injured by a distracted driver. You may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and other damages if you were seriously injured by someone who was texting and driving.
To learn more about your rights and legal options following a distracted driving accident in Louisiana, contact the Baton Rouge law office of Bianca | Matkins. We’ll schedule a free consultation to hear your story, answer your questions, and find out if we are a good fit for your case.