Connecticut lawmakers consider stricter laws to deter distracted driving

Distracted driving contributes to a significant number of car accidents in the U.S. each year, as many people in New Haven know. In 2012 alone, accidents involving texting, talking, eating, grooming or other forms of distraction caused about 421,000 injuries and claimed 3,328 lives, according to the website Distraction.gov.

In Connecticut, drivers are banned from texting or using handheld cellphones for other purposes. However, critics worry that the state's current laws are not strong enough to discourage these dangerous behaviors. New legislation seeks to address this issue by increasing the penalties for handheld cellphone use and by categorizing one fairly common behavior as distracted driving.

Proposed legal changes

Several bills and proposals that have been introduced this legislative session aim to create stricter sanctions for texting and cellphone use, according to WTNH News. The potential changes include:

  • Increasing fines for using mobile electronic devices while driving by $100 for each offense
  • Changing the penalties for texting and driving to match the penalties for driving under the influence
  • Making penalties for distracted drivers who cause fatal accidents comparable to the sanctions that intoxicated drivers face after deadly accidents

All of these changes could help reduce distracted driving by giving motorists stronger incentive to keep their focus on driving.

Another bill focuses on non-electronic distractions. According to The Connecticut Post, the bill would allow law enforcement authorities to cite drivers caught holding pets on their laps for distracted driving. Supporters of the bill note that pets can be just as distracting as children and other passengers, who are known to present significant and even dangerous distractions.

Distracted driving in Connecticut

While these bills may not all become laws, the passage of even one could help discourage distracted driving, which remains a serious problem in Connecticut.

Statistics regarding the prevalence of distracted driving in the state are limited. However, the number of tickets issued in recent years for distracted driving hints at the scope of the problem.

According to The Connecticut Post, authorities have issued more than 117,000 citations for cellphone use behind the wheel or general distracted driving since the use of handheld cellphones was banned in 2005. The Middletown Press reports that authorities issued 32,000 citations for cellphone use in 2013 alone. On average, 1 in 77 drivers received citations that year, and 8 percent of all citations issued involved distracted driving.

These figures most likely under-represent the problem, since it can be difficult for authorities to detect many forms of distracted driving. Still, even these numbers suggest that inattentive drivers remain a substantial threat to motorists in Connecticut.

Remedies after accidents

Even if any of the recently introduced bills pass, distracted driving may continue to harm many people in Connecticut. Depending on the circumstances, the victims of distracted driving accidents may be able to seek compensation for their injuries. Anyone who has been hurt in such an accident should consider discussing the available legal options with an attorney.