Distracted driving: Young drivers and criminal charges

Distracted driving is dangerous. State lawmakers throughout the country have recognized these dangers and passed laws to penalize those who drive while using their smartphone. A study recently looked into the impact of these laws on fatal accidents connected to distracted driving in young drivers. Do these laws help reduce the risk of these deadly accidents, or are they having little impact? According to the researchers, these laws are working.

A discussion of the study - what did the researchers find?

The researchers analyzed data from 38,215 drivers within this age group who were involved in fatal car crashes from 2007 through 2017. Within this group, states with texting bans had a lower fatality rate compared to those that do not. States with a primarily enforced texting ban, meaning police officers can pull over a driver simply because they believe the driver is violating the distracted driving laws, had the lowest incidence of fatal motor vehicle accidents.

Ultimately, the researchers have called on states throughout the country to enact similar distracted driving laws to better ensure the safety of young drivers.

Impact of the study - how does it apply in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts has strict distracted driving laws. As of February 23, 2020, it is one of only 16 states to ban drivers from having a phone in their hands while driving. The law also prohibits drivers who are under the age of 18 years from using any electronic device while driving, even if it is hands-free.

This law makes a violation a primary offense.

Takeaway lesson - what should young drivers learn?

First, the research serves as an important reminder to avoid using a phone while driving. Second, it also provides an opportunity to review the laws that apply in Massachusetts. These laws can come with serious penalties. Simply holding a phone while driving can come with a ticket of $100, $250 or $500, depending on whether it was first, second or subsequent offense. Although the exact penalties depend on the details of the violation, they can include hefty financial fees as well as imprisonment if there was serious property damage, an injury or fatality.

Traffic laws, moreover, such as no-texting laws, often give the police another reason to pull a driver over for further inquiry. By picking up his or her phone behind the wheel, a driver with an outstanding warrant, or with illegal contraband in a motor vehicle, may give the police a reason to stop the vehicle when they otherwise would not have had one. This would just lead to an arrest in the short term; it may also lead to a conviction in the long term because the police could survive a motion to suppress evidence.

In any case, drivers charged with serious vehicular offenses, which could include distracted driving charges, should take those allegations seriously. Defenses may be available. An attorney experienced in this niche area of criminal defense can review the charges, citations and police reports and discuss your options with you. Whether the charges are unwarranted, or the situation was the result of a regrettable mistake, it is always best to reach out for counsel before discussing the case with police or investigators. An attorney may find evidence and/or arguments that may ultimately lead to a reduction or even a dismissal of the charges.