The National Safety Council estimates that one in every four accidents are caused by texting while driving, which causes almost a half a million accidents per year, which is an incredibly astonishing figure. Louisiana has enacted special laws that govern cellular phone and texting issues while driving, subjecting those drivers to a fine for these violations.
La. Rev Stat 32:300;5 provides that all drivers are banned from manually writing, sending, or reading a text-based communication, unless it is to:
(a) Report illegal activity.
(b) Summon medical or other emergency help.
(c) Prevent injury to a person or property.
(d) Relay information between a transit or for-hire operator and that operator's dispatcher, in which the device is permanently affixed to the vehicle OR
(e) Navigate using a global positioning system.
The ban does not apply to emergency personnel, citizens band radios, citizens band radio hybrids, commercial two-way radio communication devices, or electronic communication devices with a push-to-talk function.
Additionally, drivers who hold a learner's permit or an intermediate license, regardless of their age, are prohibited from using a hand-held cell phone. Bus drivers are not allowed to use both hand-held and hands-free cell phones while driving. This is a ban with primary enforcement, which means that you can get pulled over and get a ticket without committing another traffic violation.
While there is no “punitive damage” available for using a cell phone and causing an accident, because texting while driving is illegal under Louisiana law, proving a driver was texting while driving is admissible in a civil case to show the driver is presumed to be at fault. We have handled many cases where we have been able to prove that someone was texting or improperly using their phone and caused an accident through subpoenas of their phone records, deposition testimony, using the police report, and cross-examination, and so they were found to be 100% at fault in the accident.
- Megan C. Kiefer is a partner and trial attorney at Kiefer & Kiefer, who specializes in accident and injury litigation.