Louisiana law on texting may be too narrow to protect drivers

Louisiana’s current texting ban, which is narrow and difficult to enforce, might not adequately deter drivers from this dangerous behavior.

Texting while driving has been illegal in Louisiana for several years, as most people in Lake Charles know. Unfortunately, this public safety threat hasn't been fully mitigated. The National Safety Council estimates that texting causes 6 percent of all car crashes, and the number of overall cell phone-related accidents is actually rising, according to Business Insider. This may be due to various factors, but in Louisiana, one significant problem may be the current distracted driving laws.

Loopholes and limitations

KTBS News explains that several factors make the state's current texting ban relatively difficult for authorities to enforce. The following issues are some of the most serious impediments:

  • The state observes a secondary ban, so authorities can't cite drivers just for texting. Instead, authorities must first observe a driver committing a primary offense.
  • Drivers can still legally do various things with their phones, including dialing numbers and pulling up addresses. This can make it easy for drivers to deny that they were texting.
  • Authorities can only search driver's cell phones for confirming evidence if they obtain warrants. Therefore, proving that a driver was texting can be difficult.

Not surprisingly, in some areas, enforcement of the texting ban is highly limited. KTBS News gives the example of the Shreveport Police Traffic Division, which wrote 48,000 tickets in 2014. Only 18 of these tickets were for texting while driving. Although some police departments may issue more texting while driving citations, there are still likely many instances of the behavior that go unpunished.

Reckless habits

These legal limitations are especially unfortunate because texting appears to be an ingrained behavior for many drivers. According to Fox News, last year, one survey found that more than nine out of ten respondents described texting while driving as dangerous. However, three out of four of the same people admitted to sometimes engaging in the risky behavior. Many of these drivers rationalized their actions or expressed confidence in their personal ability to safely text and drive.

More recently, a similar survey found that 61 percent of respondents admitted to texting while driving, according to CBS News. Additionally, a significant number of people reported other equally risky behaviors, such as sending emails or browsing social media while driving. Some experts have expressed concerns that the rewarding and novel nature of these forms of electronic communication may make these habits literally addictive to many drivers.

Unfortunately, these findings suggest that an understanding of the risks of distracted driving isn't necessarily enough to prevent negligent behaviors. In the absence of stronger legal sanctions, many drivers in Louisiana may continue endangering others with their reckless and inattentive habits.

Making drivers accountable

Sadly, even conscientious motorists are often powerless to avoid accidents that involve distracted drivers. However, after such an accident occurs, these victims do have options. Compensation may be available to injury victims who can prove that another motorist caused an accident by violating the law or acting negligently. An auto accident attorney may be able to provide further advice on the relevant requirements and potential remedies.