Distracted Driving Law Covers More than Texting
Posted on May 19th, 2021 by Zane Cagle
Several municipalities in the greater St. Louis area have passed ordinances banning texting and driving. The City Council of O’Fallon enacted an ordinance and cited six specific examples of behavior such as using a mirror to “engage in grooming,” inputting information into a GPS device, and writing. The ordinance has sparked some complaints of overkill from critics.
The Missouri state law bans texting and driving for all drivers under the age of 21, but many municipalities have extended that ban to all includes drivers regardless of age. When questioned, the Police Chief and O’Fallon Councilman Jim Pepper said officers mainly would use the new law in accident investigations.
O’Fallon authorities instituted the new ordinance to address a broad category of conduct that is dangerous, including anything that involves behavior other than focusing on the roadway and driving. Simply, we should not be writing, internet surfing, texting, or turned around in our cars multi-tasking! Kirkwood, Florissant, St. Charles, Ladue, Town, and Country, as well as Maryland Heights, have all passed ordinances that ban texting for all drivers regardless of age.
“Highest Degree of Care”
The O’Fallon ordinance says it is evidence that a driver isn’t exercising the “highest degree of care” if engaged in conduct that causes attention “to be obscured, diminished or directed away from the path of travel or operation of the vehicle.” The “highest degree of care” refers to that degree of care applied by a person in a given circumstance. The degree of care exercised is proportional to the danger involved. The danger involved in operating a motor vehicle is that it can cause severe injury and death. Thus drivers must use the highest degree of care when driving in order to prevent injury and death. As an accident attorney representing injured victims of motor vehicle accidents, I welcome this ordinance. More importantly, as a fellow traveler on the highways and streets of the greater St. Louis area.
Some critics claim this ordinance is overkill and that officers will be pulling people over for drinking a cup of coffee. This is, of course, assuming the majority of law enforcement officers have that kind of time.
Consider the U.S. traffic statistics:
- over 37,000 people die each year
- an additional 2.35 million are injured or disabled
- over 1,600 children under 15 years of age die each year
The amount of time that officers spend working motor vehicle accidents is considerable. Additionally, law enforcement in municipalities responds to safety calls, including burglary alarms, every range of crime dispatch, disturbance calls, gun-related injuries/fatalities, and traffic jams. Overall, most officers do not have time to monitor each and every car that passes to see if the driver is drinking a cup of coffee. Generally, drivers that are pulled over and given citations for distracted driving such as cell phone use are also making driving errors such as weaving across lanes, cutting people off, and other erratic driving behaviors.
“But, I’m good at texting and driving………..”
This is a common statement and similar to claiming you are good at drinking and driving–not logical. Repeatedly, facts and statistics show that we cannot safely text and drive. Each of us has been cut off or narrowly escaped a car crash, and each of us has been left feeling incredulous when we realize the person driving erratically didn’t even notice they narrowly avoided a crash. Repeatedly, when I read these articles about city council members enacting ordinances, each of them cites an example of how they were almost killed by someone talking on their phone or texting and driving at the same time. The reality is, distracted driving occurs way too often and is the number one reason for motor vehicle accidents.
We share the road, and when we share something, we share responsibility. It is not fair or responsible for me or you to text and drive or engage in other distracted driving, thus endangering.
So, what do these municipality ordinances mean for you?
It means that you need to put your phone away and focus on driving. It’s a really good rule of thumb regardless of the municipality in which you are driving. In reality, if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, and you were using a handheld device involved in texting and driving, it could be a liability issue for you. The ordinance banning distracted driving does not seem like an attempt to become the Gestapo for driving, as some critics argue, rather the point is to increase the safety on the roadways. More and more people are getting the message that texting and driving are not safe, yet there are still way too many people that do text and driver or engage in other distracting activities.
If you are operating a vehicle that can injure and kill people, shouldn’t it command all of your attention?
If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident where the other driver was distracted, you may need legal representation. If you are injured or if you have lost a loved one because of the inattention or negligence of another, then you will need legal representation. Our attorneys are experienced car crash attorneys that understand how a crash can impact your life in every way. We are available seven days a week for free consultations at (314) 276-1681.