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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Rhode Island Goes Hands Free

If you have spent anytime driving on the highways of Rhode Island recently, you will have noticed the signs that on June 1, 2018, drivers in Rhode Island will need to put their phones down.  If not, drivers will face a one hundred dollar fine - each time they are caught.

Rhode Island state police have suggested that the dangers of distracted driving are the same as the dangers of drunk driving.  That is why beginning on June 1st, the police will be looking to pull over anyone holding their phone while they are talking and driving.  Drivers will be allowed to use the phone only with a hands-free devices, like a mount inside the car or a Bluetooth.

Rhode Island had already prohibited texting while driving, but this new law puts the state in the same company as Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont, which also prohibit using a hand-held phone while driving. 

Of note, the new law includes a provision that allows people on their first offense to buy a hands-free system and escape the $100 fine.  If the driver brings a receipt for the purchased hands-free device to the judge at the traffic tribunal, the judge will dismiss the ticket (as long as it is on the driver's first offense).  Every offense after that will be another hundred dollars.

While previously holding onto your phone was looked down upon, the new law makes even just scrolling through your phone while driving a primary offense and officers will be well within the law to pull you over. 

The new law will also certainly impact automobile accident litigation and personal injury cases.  The penalties (not to much insurance expenses) will likely be much higher if you are the cause of an accident while holding your phone (and thus breaking the law).

 If you have any questions about the new law, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Reidy.

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