At this point, it is common knowledge that attempting to use a phone or an electronic device while operating a vehicle is dangerous. As technology has developed and smart phones have become more accessible, a greater amount of people than ever before are taking advantage of them. However, more accidents than ever before are being caused by distracted drivers.
In an effort to reduce the amount of distracted driving accidents, particularly those caused by phone usage, almost every state in the nation has established some form of ban on using phones while driving. The only states that do not currently have some form of phone-use-while-driving ban are Montana and Arizona. Many states, including Mississippi, are considering stricter texting and driving laws.
Current phone use laws
On July 1, 2015, House Bill 389 went into effect. Under this legislation, texting or posting to social media is a civil offense. During 2015, the fine for texting or posting to social media while driving was $25. This fine was increased in 2016 to $100. This law does not, however, have any criminal penalties.
The amount of work required to enforce civil penalties is much greater for law enforcement officers than the amount required for criminal penalties. This is due to the courts in which these charges are processed. Additionally, the penalties for criminal penalties are more significant than civil penalties. Because of this, law enforcement officers in Mississippi often charge drivers who violate the phone use laws with citations for careless driving instead.
Many Mississippi lawmakers are advocating for a "hands free" law, which would limit electronic device usage to devices that are mounted to the dashboard or the windshield of a vehicle. Some are also considering a more significant penalty for those who are convicted.
It is likely that amendments to the existing law will follow the general structure of laws that were passed in California with the New Year. These laws require hands-free usage such as a mount for the device, but the law also allows for the driver to tap or swipe the screen a single time. Any additional interaction with the device is considered illegal.
With the amount of injury and death that has come as a result of distracted driving, it is no surprise that lawmakers are making efforts to reduce the damage. However, laws will only do so much in preventing people from behaving how they want to behave. If you are involved in a texting an driving accident, it is recommended that you seek out the services of an experienced legal professional.