Sorry to start on such a negative note, but there are nearly 60,000 car accidents every year in Kansas. And most of these are simple distracted driving mistakes that are completely preventable.
That’s why arguably THE most important thing you can do behind the wheel is keep your hands at 10 and 2 and your eyes on the road. Always.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is any activity that diverts your attention away from the primary task of driving and can be classified into three different varieties:
Manual: anything that causes you to take your hands off the wheel, like eating, smoking, or reaching for an object
Visual: anything that causes you to take your eyes off the road, like looking at a GPS, checking your hair in the review mirror, or looking at kids in the backseat
Cognitive: anything that causes you to take your mind off the task of driving, like having a conversation with a passenger, going over your shopping list in your head, or daydreaming
Most distractions, though hazardous, are perfectly legal. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't worry about distractions, because they can put you, your passengers, and others at risk. Currently, state laws focus primarily on curbing texting while driving, leaving other distractions unchecked.
Distracted Driving Statistics in Kansas
You don’t have to follow the local news every night to know that distracted driving is a problem, but here are a few statistics that might help you understand just how serious it is in Kansas:
From 2012 to 2017, distracted driving accidents in Kansas caused 1,506 injuries and 34 deaths.
There is an average of 2,223 distracted driving car crashes in this state per year; of these:
26% are due to cell phone use
9% are due to the use of other electronic devices (GPS, stereo, DVD player, etc.)
65% are due to other distractions (applying makeup, reading newspapers, eating, tending to children, etc.)
Distracted driving accidents in Kansas caused $774,543,350 in damage in 2017 alone.
Drivers under the age of 25 are responsible for 18% of all distracted driving accidents in this state.
Leading Causes of Driver-Error Accidents in Kansas
Distracted driving is the fifth most common cause of auto accidents in this state and has led to even more accidents than driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is little wonder, therefore, that lawmakers in Kansas and across the country are taking this hazard very seriously.
Does Kansas Have Laws against Distracted Driving?
Kansas law currently prohibits:
Reading, writing, or sending text messages while behind the wheel
The use of any kind of cell phone or electronic communication device, even if hands-free, by drivers under the age of 18
Are There Any Exceptions to Kansas' Distracted Driving Laws?
Drivers with restricted licenses are prohibited from using any type of wireless communication device, but they can do so if it's to report illegal activity or call emergency services.
Plus, the state’s ban on text messaging while behind the wheel doesn't apply to:
Drivers texting using voice-operated technologies that don't require the use of hands
Law enforcement and emergency services personnel while on the job
Motorists who are stopped and pulled off to the side of the road
Drivers who are reading, selecting, or entering a number for the purpose of making or receiving a phone call
Drivers who are receiving emergency, traffic, or weather alert messages
Drivers who are receiving messages related to the operation or navigation of their vehicle
Drivers who are reporting current or ongoing illegal activity to law enforcement or are using their device for the purpose of preventing imminent injury to a person or property
Transit or for-hire operators and who are relaying or receiving information from a dispatcher, as long as the device is permanently affixed to the vehicle
Kansas Distracted Driving Laws at a Glance
Is texting while driving legal?
Can you send/receive texts at a red light?
Is handheld device use permitted?
Any special restriction for young drivers?
Is headphone/headset use permitted?
Is It Legal to Eat a Cheeseburger While Driving in Kansas?
Yes. But that doesn't mean you should.
Distracted driving comes in many forms. From actions like texting or watching a video to the less obvious distractions of searching for your sunglasses or munching on French fries, anything that takes your attention away from the task of driving presents a hazard.
So, what happens if a police officer in Kansas sees you eating a cheeseburger while driving down the highway? In most cases, nothing. There's no law that says you can't eat while driving in this state.
But eating a cheeseburger could cause you to drive erratically or to lose focus and commit a moving violation, like running a stop sign, and you could be pulled over for that. If that happens, you may get written up for distracted driving AND the moving violation you committed.
Unless you're really in a hurry, you’re better off eating your Whopper indoors or while parked in the parking lot.
What's the Difference between Primary and Secondary Enforcement of Distracted Driving Laws?
Primary enforcement of distracted driving laws means the police can pull you over if they see you violating state distracted driving laws.
Secondary enforcement of distracted driving laws means the police can cite you for violating distracted driving laws only if you break another law while doing so.
Kansas uses primary enforcement.
This means that even if you're obeying all traffic laws and feel like you're in total control of your vehicle while doing so, if a police officer sees you texting while driving, you can be pulled over and given a citation.
What's the Fine for Distracted Driving in Kansas?
The fine for distracted driving in Kansas is $60 each time. But this fine is typically accompanied by court costs and fees, so the ticket may actually end up costing you quite a bit more.
Kansas compared to the rest of the US on texting and driving restrictions
Lawmakers in most states have taken action to outlaw texting while driving, and as time goes on, most of the remaining states are expected to follow suit.
Does a Distracted Driving Citation in Kansas Increase Insurance Rates?
Yes. Most likely.
There's a strong chance your insurance company will be notified if you're cited for violating the state’s distracted driving law. How this will affect your rates depends mainly on the insurance company you are using and your overall driving history. On average, though, car insurance rates in the US rise about $120 a year after a distracted driving violation.
And if you have a safe driver discount, you can probably kiss that goodbye. Distracted driving will almost certainly disqualify you from receiving this discount and cause your rate increase to be even more significant.
What If I Drive into Another State?
Distracted driving laws vary by state, so when you cross that state line you're required to follow their laws. Claiming ignorance of the law will not get you out of a citation, so be sure to check on the current laws for any states you may be traveling through before you take your next road trip!
Oklahoma doesn't allow handheld cell phones while driving. Does this mean if you're holding your phone to your ear on a call as you cross the state border, you need to end the call immediately? Yes, if you want to stay within the confines of the law and avoid a potential $100 ticket.
What's Kansas Doing To Prevent Distracted Driving?
While handheld cell phone use while driving is still allowed in Kansas, some representatives in the State House and Senate have been fighting to push through laws to restrict it. To date, these attempts have not been successful.
So What Can You Do?
Quite simply, just put the phone away — even if that means in the glove compartment. The fines themselves are definitely not worth it, let alone the more serious consequences to you and others on the road. Let’s all just get where we’re going safely and save the texting and the Candy Crush until you get home.