What Louisiana Laws Say About Distracted Driving

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, an annual campaign that reminds drivers to put their phones down and focus on the road. 

If you find yourself using a cell phone, eating, drinking, using GPS, fiddling with the radio, or reaching for something in your car, you’re driving distracted. 

And the results could be deadly. 

In 2022, distracted driving caused 2,098 crashes in Louisiana that either injured someone or resulted in a fatality, according to data from the Center for Analytics and Research in Transportation Safety at LSU. 

“Driving a vehicle safely is a complex activity, requiring you to estimate time, distance, speed, and intention of other road users,” said Lis Freeman, executive director for the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. “You also must recognize peripheral visual clues to potentially dangerous situations and be ready to react nearly instantly. You can’t do that if you’re worried about your phone.”

A report from the State of Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance says that even talking on a phone can be problematic because about 26% of all car crashes involve cell phone use – including hands-free! And at any point, 9% of drivers are talking on cell phones.

What Does Louisiana Consider to Be Distracted Driving?

When we think of distractions, cell phone use and texting are probably the most common ones that come to mind. But the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission defines any activity that takes a driver’s mind off the task of driving, hands off the steering wheel, or eyes off the road as a distraction.

There are three main types of distraction: 

  1. Visual: Taking your eyes off the road
  2. Manual: Taking your hands off the wheel
  3. Cognitive: Taking your mind off what you are doing 

As a result, many states and local jurisdictions are passing laws that prohibit these behaviors. 

What Louisiana Law Says About Distracted Driving

Louisiana takes driving distracted seriously and has enacted the following laws for all drivers:

  • It’s illegal to use a cell phone to text message or post to a social networking site while operating a vehicle on any public road or highway. The fine is $175 for the first offense and $500 for each subsequent offense. 
  • Operating a mobile device or cell phone in any manner is prohibited while driving through a school zone during the posted hours, with only very few emergency situations exempted. The fine is $175 for the first offense and up to $500 for each subsequent offense.
  • For drivers holding a Class “E” learner’s license or intermediate license, it is illegal to use a cell phone for any use unless it’s hands-free. 

You Should Know These Multitasking Myths

Many Americans falsely believe that they’ve become good at multitasking, and are therefore justified for doing more than one activity while driving. But experts say this just isn’t true. Be aware if you fall for any of these multitasking myths:

  • Multitasking is NOT a sign of great brain strength. It’s just merely the act of doing two things simultaneously. Your brain has to switch back and forth rapidly from thinking task to thinking task, and as a result limits your ability to do either task at full capacity. 
  • Talking to someone on the phone is NOT the same as talking to a passenger. A passenger in your car provides a second set of eyes and ears on the road to help you avoid an accident. Can someone on the phone do that?
  • Hands-free devices are NOT any safer. Talking on the phone, regardless of whether you’re using a hands-free tool, causes you to miss up to 50% of your driving environments (including red lights and pedestrians) due to what is called “inattention blindness.” 

What You Can Do to Stay Safe is Simple

The tips are really quite simple to keep yourself and others safe while driving. Put the phone down. Wait to make a call. Pull over if you need to respond to something urgent. Be a good role model for younger drivers. And take the pledge to stop distracted driving at www.distraction.gov. If you have been injured in a traffic accident and you wish to discuss the specifics of your case in a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer, please contact us today.