Everyone should know by now that distracted driving is dangerous. In fact, studies show that distracted driving presents many of the same risks, both to occupants of the vehicle and unsuspecting drivers on the road, as drinking and driving. Given these dangers, some law enforcement officials in Mississippi have decided to crack down on texting while driving, one of the most egregious (and easily prevented) forms of distracted driving.
Many people may be unaware that a law was passed in Mississippi last year that ratcheted up penalties for those found texting while driving. Thankfully, some police departments took notice and have used the new rules to enforce responsible driving. The sheriff in Harrison County, MS has especially targeted distracted drivers since coming into office only a few months ago. Deputies in that department have already written nearly two-dozen texting while driving tickets and say they expect to write even more come the summer when fines associated with the infraction rise.
Currently, the law says that fines will increase from $25 per incident to $100 per incident. The law says that drivers are specifically prohibited from sending or receiving text messages, emails or social media posts while operating a motor vehicle. Most drivers, except for those operating school buses, will be allowed to send and receive phone calls.
One loophole appears to be the use of GPS features, which the law does not specifically prohibit. The problem with this is that the burden of proving that a person has been texting falls on police officers, making a tough job even more difficult. Experts say to successfully catch a person texting requires incredible vigilance from officers, even then, a successful end to the case is far from assured.
The problem is that a person pulled over for texting and driving can simply deny sending a text. The law says a person is allowed to refuse to show an officer his or her phone. This would mean that the police officer would be forced to subpoena the person’s cellphone records to prove that the person was sending or receiving messages at the time. This process can take up to a month.
Given the multitude of hoops, some police departments have decided not to enforce the law, saying that they believe it is a civil law not a criminal matter. Thankfully, others view things differently and are taking action to protect innocent drivers from the dangers posed by distracted driving.
To put things in perspective, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that in 2013 some 3,100 people were killed in accidents caused by distracted drivers. Another 400,000 were injured. Given the extent of the harm legislators should do what they can to write strong laws that give law enforcement the tools they need to crack down, making us all a little more likely to make it home safely at the end of the day.
If you have been injured in a Mississippi car, motorcycle or tractor-trailer accident and think you may have a personal injury claim, please contact the Mississippi personal injury attorneys at Kilpatrick & Philley at (601) 856-7800.