Distracted Driving in Mississippi

Distracted Driving in MississippiWhen it comes to distracted driving and Mississippi, our state has had an interesting way of addressing the issue. In fact, only eight short years ago Mississippi was one of the few states who still did not enforce distracted driving laws.

Perhaps that was why Mississippi was declared one of the worst states for distracted driving in 2018. Fortunately, Mississippi has enforced distracted driving laws in recent years that prevent Mississippi drivers from texting while driving. However, have these laws made a difference? Has Mississippi become better at cracking down on distracted driving?

Recent statistics for distracted driving in Mississippi

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), cell phone use is among one of the common causes of distracted driving. In a survey from the Center for Mississippi Health Policy, 46 percent of Mississippi drivers admitted to texting while driving, one of the highest rates in America. Outside of cell phone use, other common causes of distracted driving include eating, reaching for moving objects, applying makeup, and looking at external objects.

What are the different types of distractions?

Even though cell phone use is the main type of distraction for drivers, any type of activity that takes a driver’s attention off of the road can contribute to distracted driving. This includes actions that many people can empathize with, like tending to your children in the middle of driving. When it comes to distracted driving, there are three types of distractions:

  • Cognitive. Cognitive distractions are any distractions that take your mind off of driving temporarily. This ranges from daydreaming in the middle of traffic to reviewing a to-do list in your head.
  • Manual. Manual distractions are physical distractions that take your hands off of the wheel. This can include actions like eating, reaching for an object, and applying makeup.
  • Visual. Visual distractions are distractions that temporarily take your eyes off of the road. These distractions include rubbernecking, positioning your GPS, and checking on your children in the backseat.

Even though these distractions increase the possibility of an accident, there are no legal ramifications for the majority of these distractions. Mississippi’s distracted driving laws generally only enforce consequences for drivers who engage in cell phone use.

Mississippi’s distracted driving laws

In 2014, Mississippi passed distracted driving laws that prohibit all drivers from texting while driving. These laws prevent drivers from engaging in texting and social media engagement. Per the laws, drivers are prohibited from using a handheld mobile device to read, send, or write a text message while driving. However, the laws currently do not restrict drivers from making or receiving calls.

How distracted driving laws define a “text message”

Text messages are not the only type of electronic messages that are prohibited under distracted driving laws. Mississippi’s laws classify other electronic forms of communication like emails and instant messages as text messages.

Are there any exceptions to the distracted driving laws?

Mississippi’s distracted driving laws have one exception to engaging in cell phone use while driving. The only exception involves using a hands-free mobile device or voice-to-text technology. Drivers who use their hands to enable or deactivate the hands-free mobile device will not be held responsible under the distracted driving laws.

Are drivers allowed to use cell phones at a red light?

It depends. Mississippi’s distracted driving laws prohibit drivers from engaging in cell phone use while the vehicle is in motion. While it can be argued that the vehicle is currently not in motion at a red light, it would be better to practice caution while using a cell phone while your vehicle is at a traffic signal.

What are the legal consequences for violating Mississippi distracted driving laws?

When it comes to distracted driving laws, law enforcement officials have the option of practicing either primary or secondary enforcement. Primary enforcement is a type of enforcement where police officers can pull a driver over if they catch drivers engaging in distracted driving. Secondary enforcement is a type of enforcement where police officers can issue a citation if they catch drivers violating the distracted driving laws and breaking another type of law. Because Mississippi enforces primary enforcement, any driver that is pulled over by a police officer can be issued a citation after being caught engaging in cell phone use, even if the driver was obeying all other traffic laws.

What are the fines for violating distracted driving laws?

Since the passage of distracted driving laws in Mississippi, law enforcement officials have been given additional incentives to enforce the laws and prevent distracted driving. One of the incentives included quadrupling the fines for distracted driving violations. Here are the fines for distracted drivers who violate distracted driving laws:

  • $100 for adult drivers
  • $500 for minors or driver’s with a learner’s permit
  • $500 for bus drivers
  • $1,000 for adult drivers who cause an accident while violating distracted driving laws

Mississippi drivers who engage in reckless driving while violating distracted driving laws can also receive citations for reckless driving. If drivers violate the distracted driving laws and cause an accident that takes the life of another person, they can also be charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Being in a car accident is a traumatic experience. If you or your loved one have been injured in a car accident, your first priority should be to seek medical treatment. Afterwards, your next priority should be to seek the legal counsel of a seasoned Mississippi law firm. At Merkel & Cocke, P.A., our legal team is committed to securing the justice and compensation you deserve. Call our office today at 662-627-9641, or complete our contact form. We represent injured clients in Jackson, Clarksdale, Greenville, and Oxford.