Distracted Driving FAQ

Distracted Driving: Frequently Asked Questions

Distracted driving accidents have become a serious issue in America. All over the country, drivers are focusing on more than just the road. It will help you to know the answers to some frequently asked questions so you can avoid dangerous distracted driving accidents and stay safe on the road.

Q: What is distracted driving?

A driver is driving distracted at any time when they divert their attention from the road to any other task available to them. The distraction can be as small and simple as changing the radio station or petting a dog, or as complicated and challenging as using social media.

Q: How is electronic distracted driving different?

The greatest cause of distracted driving today is undoubtedly cell phones. Using a cell phone while operating the vehicle is referred to as electronic distracted driving. Even using a phone’s GPS function is considered to be electronic distracted driving.

Q: Why does the legality of cell phone use while driving differ from state to state?

There is no federal law regulating cell phone use while driving, so it falls to the states to decide whether they believe driving while using a cell phone should be illegal. In Alabama, full cell phone use restrictions only apply to novice drivers.

Q: Which states ban the use of cell phones for every driver?

None of the states have banned all cell phone use for every driver. Many states may require a driver to have a certain amount of experience before allowing them to use their cell phone while operating their car. Other states may require drivers to use the hands-free function of their phone while driving. However, almost every state has banned texting while driving. In Alabama, full cell phone use restrictions only apply to novice drivers.

Q: May a police officer stop me for using a cell phone even if I am driving correctly?

It depends entirely on the laws of the state you live. A state can either have primary or secondary enforcement. Primary enforcement means that a police officer can stop you specifically because you were on your cell phone while driving. Secondary enforcement means that an officer cannot stop you only for talking on your cell phone, but if they notice you breaking another law or driving poorly while talking on the cell phone, they can give you a ticket for your poor driving and your phone use. In Alabama, primary enforcement only applies to novice drivers.

Q: Is it legal to text at a stop light?

Often, no. It is not legal to text at a red light or stop sign. However, every state permits a driver to pull off to the side of the road, turn off their car, and then text. Some places even have rest stops specifically designed for people to pull off the road and text.

Q: Can I be given a ticket for texting because I was dialing a phone number?

It is possible. Police officers often do not have the ability to know what your intentions are while the phone is in your hand, and one may ticket you for something that you were not doing at the time. However, if you reside in a state that allows you to talk on the phone and drive and your phone has a call log, you may be able to show the court that you were dialing a number at the time you received your ticket, which may get the ticket for texting dropped.

Q: Can I change the music my phone is playing?

In states that require drivers to use their phone in hands-free mode, no, you cannot legally adjust your music while driving.

Q: Can I get a ticket for utilizing my phone’s GPS?

It is possible. It entirely depends on the wording of your state’s laws about distracted driving. If your state’s laws state that you are not to hold or use your phone, then yes you can get a ticket. Some other states may allow you to hold your phone, but prohibit you from inputting information into the GPS.

Q: Can I receive a ticket for a cell phone ban when I did not know there was one?


Q: Why are distracted driving laws so ambiguous?

Distracted driving is still a relatively new threat to the human race. Many of the details of the rules may still need to be changed. The ever-changing technology also makes it difficult for the legislature to be passed that will have any longevity.

Q: Can a police officer search and take my phone away?

A police officer cannot go through your phone without your permission (or a warrant). However, technology is currently in development that will allow for an officer to see when your phone was in use without intruding on your privacy. It is unclear as to if that will be legal for an officer to use or not.

Q: Why not ban phones entirely for drivers?

Many people believe that they should have the right to use their phones while on the road if they want to. Because of that belief, it is unlikely that any legislation will be able to ban the use of cell phones by vehicle operators completely.