Connecticut steps up effort to curb distracted driving

When you are driving down the road and see a fellow driver texting as they are steering their car, your first response is probably to get away from that driver, because you know that what he or she is doing could possibly involve you in a car accident later down the road.

Your hunch is backed by a significant quantity of government and private research. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Institute, drivers that were engaged in distracting activities, such as texting or talking on a cellphone, were responsible for 3,331 deaths in 2011. Additionally such drivers were involved in about 387,000 motorist injuries during the same period.

Connecticut's response

To help stem the problem that distracted driving has inflicted upon Connecticut motorists, the state has passed laws banning the use of handheld cellphones and the sending, composing or reading of text messages while behind the wheel. Under the law, violators may be pulled over and issued tickets, even if he or she has not committed another traffic violation. If found guilty, offenders can be fined $150 for a first offense, $300 for a second offense and $500 for each subsequent offense.

Although the fines are an important step in deterring distracted drivers, many believed that the law did not go far enough. Because of this, the Connecticut legislature recently enacted a tougher distracted driving law that went into effect on October 1. Under the provisions of the new law, the legislature intends to increase compliance with the distracted driving laws by hitting drivers harder where it hurts-their pocketbooks.

Under the new law, drivers will now receive one point on their license, in addition to the fines already in place. Over time, if a driver receives too many points on their license, the license could be suspended. In addition to license suspension, the new law allows the reporting of distracted driving violations to the violator's insurance company. As a result of this change, violators may face significantly higher insurance premiums, while habitual violators may find their policies cancelled altogether.

Consult an attorney

In addition to the penalties under the distracted driving laws, violators who injure others also can face a lawsuit for damages. Under Connecticut law, drivers who violate the law are often also found to be negligent. As a result, violators can be held liable for damages suffered by others, such as medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.

If you have been injured in an accident involving a distracted driver, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can evaluate your claim and work to hold the responsible party accountable for his or her carelessness.