The Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal has ruled that using a cell phone’s GPS function while driving is illegal. According to a WPRI news report, the ruling from the Tribunal’s Appeals Panel was published in late August and upholds a fine for a man who was found to have violated state laws regarding texting while driving. The case involved a man who was stopped on Route 146 in July 2015 by a trooper who wrote him a ticket for texting and driving. The man argued that he was only using his phone’s GPS function to navigate and contended that he had not sent or received any text messages. The goal of the ruling is to lessen the chances of a car accident, which would in turn, lessen the amount of Pawtucket car accident lawsuits.
GPS Still a Distraction
The trooper said in court documents that he saw the driver repeatedly looking down at his phone while driving. The issue in this appeal was whether or not looking at one’s phone while driving – regardless of whether or not texting was involved – was a violation of the law. The Tribunal ruled that it did and the appeals panel upheld that decision. The panel ruled that the phrase “including but not limited to” in the statute that defines what a text message is, intended to include a range of actions beyond just e-mails and messages.
The judges wrote that a driver who looks at any visual display on the phone’s screen would be in violation of the distracted driving statute. When the law is not interpreted that way, the very purpose of having a distracted driving law is defeated, the judges ruled. The tribunal’s decision has now been appealed to District Court. The decision has drawn mixed reactions. While law enforcement officials support the decision, some residents feel it’s an overreach and that drivers should be able to consult their GPS while driving.
What is Distracted Driving?
According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a distraction while driving is something that causes the driver to take his or her eyes off the road, hands off the wheel and attention away from the act of driving. If we apply that definition to the situation involving the GPS device, we would have to conclude that it is a distraction to the driver. When a motorist looks down several times at the GPS to figure out where he is heading, he takes his eyes off the road for several seconds. Given the speeds at which we travel, this could have devastating consequences resulting in auto or even pedestrian accidents.
The solution lies in putting away all electronic devices while driving. If you are traveling to a new destination, map your route before you hit the road. If you find that you are lost, pull over to a safe location to look at your GPS and find your way back. These are safe alternatives to checking your GPS while driving.
Contact a Pawtucket Car Accident Lawyer
If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of a Pawtucket car accident, contact one of our experienced Pawtucket car accident lawyers at 11 George Street, Pawtucket, RI 02909. You may be entitled to receive compensation for your medical bills, lost income and pain and suffering, among other losses. No fees are received unless you win your case. For a free (no obligation) case evaluation, call us at 401-365-6001 or call toll free at 1-800-992-6878 or fill out our contact form online.