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Kentucky’s Distracted Driving Laws Cover More Than Just Texting

Kentucky’s Distracted Driving Laws Cover More Than Just Texting

With distracted driving on the rise, Kentucky law prohibits drivers from texting while driving and bars all teenage drivers from any kind of phone usage while their vehicle is in motion. Distracted driving is more than just texting, though; it’s anything that takes a driver’s attention away from the road.

All drivers have been guilty of distracted driving at least once: eating on the go, drawing your eyes to an accident on the side of the highway, or even getting kids to stop arguing and behave in the backseat.

As more and more of our lives happen “on the go” and smartphones command our calendars and our correspondences, some drivers use their phones to play music or a podcast, navigate, or read an email or text at a stoplight.

Distracted driving-related crashes, injuries and fatalities are on the rise. Here’s what it means to be a distracted driver in the state of Kentucky:

What Is Distracted Driving?

Kentucky’s distracted driving laws aren’t arbitrary; they come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), which has studied the impact of distracted driving on crashes in the country.

The NHTSA qualifies distracted driving as, “any non-driving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing.” This can include texting while driving, but it also can extend to any activity that impairs a driver’s ability to fully focus on driving.

There are three categories of distraction that can affect a person’s driving:

  • Visual: Taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual: Taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive: Taking your mind off what you’re doing

Of course, texting and driving can be problematic because it takes the driver’s focus visually, manually and cognitively. Using a cellphone while driving reduces the amount of brain activity dedicated to driving by 37 percent. But distracted driving also can mean eating, applying makeup or grooming, or adjusting the radio. What else can take your attention away from driving?

  • Reaching for an object
  • Talking, listening to or conversing with passengers
  • Reading or writing
  • Eating, drinking or smoking
  • Using electronic devices
  • Interacting with children and pets

While a driver cannot be ticketed for eating a sandwich while driving, if the sandwich distracts the driver, causing them to lose focus and drive erratically or cause a crash, the driver still can be cited for driving while distracted. The fact could also be used to establish fault in a civil case.

Distracted Driving in Kentucky

Distracted driving is a serious issue in Kentucky that lawmakers are looking to curb through legislation and building public awareness. How serious is this issue?

  • In 2018, 314 people were injured and four people were killed as a result of crashes caused by distracted driving. The reported numbers are likely understated.
  • Nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near crashes involved some kind of distraction within three seconds of the event.

In any state, distracted driving can have dire consequences. If a driver takes their eyes off the road for five seconds to read or send a text while traveling 55 miles per hour, it’s the same as driving the length of a football field with their eyes blindfolded.

What Are the Laws Regarding Distracted Driving and Texting in the State of Kentucky?

Talking on a Cellphone

There are currently no restrictions for adults with active driver’s licenses to talk on the phone while driving. However, teenage drivers are prohibited from texting or talking on the phone while driving while the car is in motion.

Text Messaging

All Kentucky drivers are prohibited from using a personal communication device to read, write or send a text message while operating a vehicle that is in motion. This includes most kinds of phone usage, including text messages, instant messages and email.

This law has a few exclusions, though, including using a GPS device, entering a phone number or selecting a contact to make a call, making contact for emergency services, reporting illegal activities, or seeking medical help.

Teens and Distracted Driving

In Kentucky, drivers under 18 who have a learner’s permit or intermediate driver’s license are banned from using a cellphone while driving except as a GPS device (and even then, young drivers cannot enter an address or location while the car is in motion). This includes both hand-held and hands-free phone usage.

Because extra passengers can be distracting—especially for young drivers—Kentucky also has a graduated license program, which means that teenagers and those with an intermediate license are allowed no more than one passenger under the age of 20 in their car while driving.

What to Do If You Are Injured in a Crash With a Distracted Driver

In Kentucky, distracted driving can be used to help establish fault. Fault is required in order to recover against a driver (or their insurance company) that was involved in a collision.  

At McCoy & Sparks, we know the law, and we know how the careless actions of another driver can affect your whole life in an instant. We’re here to ensure that the law fully protects you from the negligent and reckless behavior of others.

McCoy & Sparks has decades of experience advocating for their neighbors in Central Kentucky in all kinds of scenarios—including instances of distracted driving. If you or a loved one is the victim of a distracted driver, contact us today to find out how we can help you.

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