Texting while driving is a huge concern for Delaware lawmakers and citizens. Every year, too many people are killed and seriously injured by distracted driving on our roads.
Sadly, road accidents today often involve drivers who were using their cellphone while driving, even if there were other factors at play or other drivers at fault. Texting and driving can both cause accidents and can affect an accident victim’s right to compensation. If you have been injured in an auto accident caused by another driver, and you or the other driver were using your cell phone while driving, there are legal issues that may not apply in other road accidents. It is important to get reliable legal advice to protect your right to compensation. The car accident attorneys at Morris James are experienced in handling all types of car and motorcycle accident cases. Contact us online or by calling 302.655.2599 for a free consultation.
What are the Delaware laws about texting while driving?
Delaware laws explicitly ban the use of “electronic communication devices” while driving a vehicle on Delaware roads. An electronic communication device includes any cell phone, laptop, pager, electronic game, or other similar device. In this article, we primarily discuss cell phone use, but if you are one of the few people who still uses a pager, or you like to have your tablet nearby, these rules will apply to those devices too, and to all electronic communication devices listed in the Delaware legislation. Using an electronic communication device means the device is in your hands and you are on a call, viewing or transmitting images or data, playing games, or texting.
The rules are different for hands-free use (unless you are a learner driver.) Delaware drivers are allowed to use their phone hands-free while driving, but any use while the device is in the driver’s hands is prohibited.
Are there any exceptions to the restrictions on cell phone use while driving in Delaware?
There are exceptions to the strict prohibition on cell phone use while driving in Delaware. The laws do not prohibit the following uses of an electronic communication device while driving:
- Police and other first responders on duty in emergency vehicles.
- A driver reporting a fire, traffic accident, serious road hazard or emergency, crime, or a reckless or drunk driver.
- School bus driver contacting central dispatch when the bus does not have 2-way radio.
- Hands-free use, or turning the hands-free function on or off.
- Driving an unregistered farm tractor, farm truck, or farm equipment.
- Use of an amateur radio by an FCC-licensed amateur radio operator.
- An employee using a 2-way radio attached to a vehicle for business purposes.
What are the penalties for using a cellphone while driving in Delaware?
If you are caught using a cell phone while driving in Delaware, you can be given a $100 fine. If you are caught again within 2 years, the fine will increase to at least $200 and can be up to $300. A portion of these fines goes to the Volunteer Ambulance Company Fund.
In Delaware, you do not automatically get points on your license if you are caught using a cellphone while driving. However, if your driving is reckless or breaks other Delaware laws, you could get points on your license (or other penalties) that are handed down for these offenses.
The penalties for learner drivers who are caught using a cell phone while driving are more severe.
How are the Delaware laws on texting while driving different for learner drivers?
Drivers on a Level 1 Learner’s Permit in Delaware face different rules and different penalties relating to cell phone use. Learner drivers are not allowed to use cell phones or other electronic communication devices at all while driving, NOT EVEN HANDSFREE.
If a learner driver is caught using a cellphone while driving, they can be given a one-month license suspension for a first offense, and a 3-month suspension for subsequent offenses. Learner drivers could also be required to retake their driving or written exams.
Why could it be easier to prove negligence if a driver was texting while driving?
If you are injured in an auto accident and you have losses that are not covered by your own auto insurance, you may have to prove that another driver was at fault in the accident in order to get full compensation for your injuries and losses. To prove the other driver’s negligence, the victim must show that the other driver’s actions fell below the standard of a reasonable driver, and that this caused the accident. This can be difficult to prove and can require a lot of work in analyzing the scene of the accident, gathering witness statements, and examining other evidence from the accident.
However, a legal concept called negligence per se can skip this step. Negligence per se means that if a person breaks a law that exists to protect against the harm that happened, the law-breaker is assumed to have been negligent. In Delaware, the laws against texting while driving are designed to prevent a road accident. If a driver is involved in a road accident while they are texting and driving, the driver can be deemed negligent without any further proof. The victim then only has to show that the driver’s negligent conduct caused the victim’s injuries to meet the legal burden of proving negligence in an accident.
How could texting while driving affect my compensation after a car accident?
In most car accidents, the drivers involved will try to deny that they were to blame for the accident. They, or their auto insurance company, understand that reducing a driver’s blame in an accident can reduce their risk of penalties and the amount of compensation that they might have to pay out to injured victims of the accident. They can also do this by showing that someone else was partly to blame for the accident, including the victim.
A car or motorcycle accident is not always the fault of only one driver. If another driver is also at fault in an accident, they may share some of the blame and some of the financial liability. For example, if one driver in an accident was speeding and the other driver was texting while driving, both drivers could be partially at fault for the accident. Drivers and their insurance companies will often try to use this to reduce their own liability and make someone else pay.
If you are the injured victim in a road accident, you may be entitled to compensation from the negligent driver who caused the accident. However, if that negligent driver can show that you contributed to the accident, such as by texting while you were driving, your compensation may be reduced. Delaware is a modified comparative negligence state, which means that an accident victim’s compensation will be reduced by the amount that they were at fault. For example, if a victim is determined to be 10% at fault in the accident, their compensation will be reduced by 10%. Also, with modified comparative negligence, if a victim is more than 50% at fault in the accident, they cannot recover any compensation at all.
Therefore, texting while driving can not only cause an accident in which you are liable for someone else’s injuries, but it could also reduce your compensation if you are injured in an accident that someone else caused. If you have been injured in a road accident, it is important to have a car accident attorney who will ensure that your right to compensation is protected and that you get the settlement or award that you need to recover physically, emotionally, and financially after an accident.
At Morris James, our attorneys have been standing up for victims since we opened our doors in 1932. If you have questions about auto accidents, you may find answers in our Car Accident FAQs or Motorcycle & Ebike Accident FAQs, or you can contact us online or call us at 302.655.2599 to speak to one of our experienced attorneys.