Distracted driving claims thousands of lives every year, as an increasing number of drivers pay more attention to electronic devices than the road. In order to combat crashes caused by distracted drivers, Rhode Island has strengthened its laws regarding cellphone use and texting while driving.
Rhode Island's Cellphone and Texting Laws for Drivers
While state law has prohibited texting and driving since 2011, lawmakers have recently modified Rhode Island’s distracted driving laws. As of June 1, 2018, Rhode Island will be a hands-free state, banning all handheld device use while driving.
Under the new statute, Rhode Island has specific laws and penalties for:
- Texting. All drivers are prohibited from sending, reading, or writing text messages while behind the wheel. This includes texting via cellphone, tablet, or any other wireless communication device. This is also a primary law, meaning law enforcement officers can pull a driver over for texting without any other violations required. However, there are some who are exempt from the law, including on-duty emergency services workers using wireless devices on the job or drivers who are parked and away from the flow of traffic. The first time a driver violates the law, he faces a fine up to $100 and/or a 30-day license suspension. A second offense raises the fine to $150 and a 3-month license suspension, while a third violation results in a $250 fine and a maximum 6-month license suspension.
- Cellphone use. On June 1, 2018, all drivers are prohibited from using their hands to engage in phone calls while driving in Rhode Island. The law excludes some professionals such as on-duty police officers and emergency vehicle drivers, public utility workers, taxi drivers, or truck and bus drivers who are not carrying passengers. Exceptions may also be made for drivers who use a handheld device in an emergency situation to call 911, a hospital, a fire department, or other emergency response service. Drivers caught talking on their cellphones while driving may be ordered to pay up to a $100 fine, but this fine may be suspended for first offenders who provide proof of purchasing a hands-free accessory before the fine is imposed.
- Novice drivers. Any driver under the age of 18 is prohibited from all cellphone use while driving, including hand-held and hands-free. This is also a primary law.
- Bus drivers. Bus drivers are prohibited from all cellphone use. This is also a primary law, with first-time offenders facing an $85 fine, which increases for each subsequent offense.
If you were injured by a distracted driver, we can help. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online form to schedule an initial consultation with an injury attorney at no cost to you.