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DISTRACTED DRIVING: Texting-Related Car Accidents Continue

DISTRACTED DRIVING: Texting-Related Car Accidents Continue

It’s an unfortunate fact.  Too many Connecticut drivers are being injured as a result of cell phone use, texting and other forms of distracted driving.

Overview of Connecticut’s Distracted Driving Statute

The Connecticut statute as a whole prohibits the operation of a vehicle while using a hand-held mobile telephone to engage in a call; while using a mobile electronic device; or while typing, sending or reading a text message with a hand-held mobile telephone or mobile electronic device. It will be presumed that you are making a call if you have the cell phone near your ear. Exceptions to the rule exist for emergency calls and calls made while using a hands-free device.

Under subsections (b) and (g), adults who violate the distracted driving statute are subject to fines as follows: $100 for the first offense, $150 for a second offense and $200 for subsequent offenses. Under subsection (i), anyone who commits a moving violation while violating the prohibition is subject to the fine for the moving violation plus a $100 fine for violating the distracted driving statute.

Under subsection (d), persons under 18 years of age are prohibited from using cell phones even with hands-free devices, except with regard to emergency calls. Under subsection (h) a $100 fine applies to each such violation. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, under a separate statute, §14-111, for a first violation of section 14-296aa, person under 18 are subject to a license suspension for a period of thirty days for a first violation and, for a second violation a suspension of ninety days and, for a third or subsequent violation a six month suspension. Additionally, the Department of Motor Vehicles will charge a license restoration fee following each such suspension.

In addition to the statute, other principles of common law or other statutes may also apply in accidents caused in part by distracted driving in Connecticut.

Excerpt of Connecticut’s Distracted Driving Statute

The text of the statute is as follows:

Sec. 14-296aa. Use of hand-held mobile telephones and mobile electronic devices by motor vehicle operators and school bus drivers prohibited or restricted. Exceptions. Penalties. Amounts remitted to municipality. Record of violation.

[definitions omitted]

(b)

(1) Except as otherwise provided in this subsection and subsections (c) and (d) of this section, no person shall operate a motor vehicle upon a highway, as defined in section 14-1, while using a hand-held mobile telephone to engage in a call or while using a mobile electronic device. An operator of a motor vehicle who types, sends or reads a text message with a hand-held mobile telephone or mobile electronic device while operating a motor vehicle shall be in violation of this section, except that if such operator is driving a commercial motor vehicle, as defined in section 14-1, such operator shall be charged with a violation of subsection (e) of this section.

(2) An operator of a motor vehicle who holds a hand-held mobile telephone to, or in the immediate proximity of, his or her ear while operating a motor vehicle is presumed to be engaging in a call within the meaning of this section. The presumption established by this subdivision is rebuttable by evidence tending to show that the operator was not engaged in a call.

(3) The provisions of this subsection shall not be construed as authorizing the seizure or forfeiture of a hand-held mobile telephone or a mobile electronic device, unless otherwise provided by law.

(4) Subdivision (1) of this subsection shall not apply to: (A) The use of a hand-held mobile telephone for the sole purpose of communicating with any of the following regarding an emergency situation: An emergency response operator; a hospital, physician’s office or health clinic; an ambulance company; a fire department; or a police department, or (B) any of the following persons while in the performance of their official duties and within the scope of their employment: A peace officer, as defined in subdivision (9) of section 53a-3, a firefighter or an operator of an ambulance or authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in section 14-1, a member of the armed forces of the United States, as defined in section 27-103, while operating a military vehicle, or a sworn motor vehicle inspector acting under the authority of section 14-8, or (C) the use of a hand-held radio by a person with an amateur radio station license issued by the Federal Communications Commission in emergency situations for emergency purposes only, or (D) the use of a hands-free mobile telephone.

(c) No person shall use a hand-held mobile telephone or other electronic device, including those with hands-free accessories, or a mobile electronic device while operating a school bus that is carrying passengers, except that this subsection shall not apply to (1) a school bus driver who places an emergency call to school officials, or (2) the use of a hand-held mobile telephone as provided in subparagraph (A) of subdivision (4) of subsection (b) of this section.

(d) No person under eighteen years of age shall use any hand-held mobile telephone, including one with a hands-free accessory, or a mobile electronic device while operating a motor vehicle on a public highway, except as provided in subparagraph (A) of subdivision (4) of subsection (b) of this section.

(e) No person shall use a hand-held mobile telephone or other electronic device or type, read or send text or a text message with or from a mobile telephone or mobile electronic device while operating a commercial motor vehicle, as defined in section 14-1, except for the purpose of communicating with any of the following regarding an emergency situation: An emergency response operator; a hospital; physician’s office or health clinic; an ambulance company; a fire department or a police department.

(f) Except as provided in subsections (b) to (e), inclusive, of this section, no person shall engage in any activity not related to the actual operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of such vehicle on any highway, as defined in section 14-1.

(g) Any law enforcement officer who issues a summons for a violation of this section shall record on such summons the specific nature of any distracted driving behavior observed by such officer.

(h) Any person who violates this section shall be fined one hundred fifty dollars for a first violation, three hundred dollars for a second violation and five hundred dollars for a third or subsequent violation.

(i) An operator of a motor vehicle who commits a moving violation, as defined in subsection (a) of section 14-111g, while engaged in any activity prohibited by this section shall be fined in accordance with subsection (h) of this section, in addition to any penalty or fine imposed for the moving violation.

(j) The state shall remit to a municipality twenty-five per cent of the fine amount received for a violation of this section with respect to each summons issued by such municipality. Each clerk of the Superior Court or the Chief Court Administrator, or any other official of the Superior Court designated by the Chief Court Administrator, shall, on or before the thirtieth day of January, April, July and October in each year, certify to the Comptroller the amount due for the previous quarter under this subsection to each municipality served by the office of the clerk or official.

(k) A record of any violation of this section shall appear on the driving history record or motor vehicle record, as defined in section 14-10, of any person who commits such violation, and the record of such violation shall be available to any motor vehicle insurer in accordance with the provisions of section 14-10.