In Washington, you cannot text and drive. You cannot hold a cellphone while driving. You cannot even use your cellphone while stopped at a red light. And for good reason.
Cellphone use while driving is a major contributor to preventable car crashes in the United States. Cellphone use behind the wheel distracts the driver, making it more likely they will cause a collision. These crashes kill thousands each year.
Most states have taken legislative action to reduce the number of distracted driving crashes by enacting laws prohibiting some or all cellphone use while driving.
But how effective are these bans on texting and driving compared to comprehensive bans on all cellphone use while driving?
Texting bans versus comprehensive bans
Some states have laws that ban texting and driving, but permit drivers to hold a cellphone or dial one button on a cellphone while driving. Other states ban all hand-held cellphone use while driving. Two states have no bans on cellphone use and driving. Which is most effective?
One published study reports that total bans on all cellphone use while driving reduced the number of crash fatalities among drivers. Conversely, bans on texting alone did not reduce the number of crash fatalities among drivers.
Washington saw a significant decline in rear-end collision rates when it expanded its distracted driving laws to prohibit all hand-held cellphone use. In comparison, states with a texting ban alone did not see a decline in rear-end collision rates.
Washington also prohibits cellphone use at red lights and stop signs. In comparison, some states prohibit hand-held cellphone use but do not specify whether the ban is effective when a motorist is temporarily stopped. These states did not see the same reduction in rear-end collision rates compared to Washington.
Cellphone bans and negligence
What do these bans mean for you if you are involved in a car accident caused by a distracted driver? If the driver was using a cellphone in violation of state law when the crash occurred, it can buttress a claim that the driver was not meeting their duty of care. This is an essential element of a negligence claim.
If a driver is found negligent, they might be responsible for compensating the other driver for the financial damages they incurred due to the collision.