On average, there is a car accident every 3 minutes and 12 seconds in Louisiana. 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?
The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission states that “although cell phone use and texting are two of the most common distractions, any activity that takes a driver’s mind off of the task of driving, hands off the steering wheel, or eyes off the road is considered a distraction.”
Currently Louisiana’s distracted driving laws focus primarily on texting and handheld cell phone use in certain situations.
Distracted Driving Statistics in Louisiana
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 Louisiana:
Highway officials in Louisiana say that distracted driving has become a “dangerous epidemic.”
On average, drivers in Louisiana use their cell phones 2.4 times each time they drive.
The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission reports that an average of 38 people die and 5,400 are injured every year in this state because of distractions while driving.
Researchers have found that drivers can remain distracted for up the 30 seconds after checking their phones.
Does Louisiana Have Laws against Distracted Driving?
Currently, Louisiana prohibits the following while driving:
Reading, writing, or sending text messages
The use of social media
Drivers under the age of 16 are not permitted to use wireless devices, even if hands-free.
The use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices is prohibited in active school zones.
Cell phone use is prohibited for drivers under the age of 18, drivers with learner’s permits, and new drivers of any age for one year after receiving their license.
Louisiana compared to the rest of the US on texting and driving restrictions
Every state in the US has a law that prohibits some sort of cell phone usage except Montana and Arizona. But in 2021, newly enacted cell phone restriction laws will go into effect in Arizona.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Distracted Driving Laws in Louisiana?
Louisiana allows the use of GPS and other navigation systems. The state also permits all drivers to use their phones while driving if they are:
Reporting an emergency (traffic hazard, accident, fire, etc.)
Obtaining help when their personal safety is at risk
Reporting a criminal act against someone
Operating an emergency vehicle and must use their cell phone as part of their job
Louisiana 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 Louisiana?
Yes. But that doesn't mean you should.
Distracted driving comes in many forms, from texting and watching videos to less obvious distractions like searching for your sunglasses or munching on French fries.
So, what happens if a police officer in Louisiana spots you eating a cheeseburger or a po’ boy while driving down the highway? In most cases, nothing. There's no law that specifically says you can't eat while driving in this state.
However, 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 careless driving as well as for the moving violation you committed.
Unless you're really in a hurry, you’re better off eating your cheeseburger indoors or in the parking lot.
What Is 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.
Louisiana uses primary enforcement.
This means even if you're obeying all traffic laws and believe you're in total control of your vehicle, if a police officer sees you sending a text message while driving, you can be pulled over and given a citation.
What Is the Fine for Distracted Driving in Louisiana?
The fines for distracted driving in Louisiana are pretty steep:
For adult drivers: $500 fine for the first offense; $1,000 fine plus a 60-day license suspension for second and subsequent violations.
For drivers under 18: up to $250 fine for the first offense; up to $500 fine plus a 60-day license suspension for second and subsequent violations.
Additionally, these already-high fines are doubled if the violation results in a collision.
Louisiana's fines for distracted driving compared to surrounding states
As you can see, the fines for distracted driving in Louisiana are among the highest in the country. And the costs don’t end there. In addition to the posted fine, you may also have court costs and administrative fees.
Worse yet, you may see a spike in your car insurance rates, which brings us to our next subject: insurance.
Does Distracted Driving in Louisiana Increase Insurance Rates?
If you get a citation for distracted driving, your car insurance company will be notified. How this will affect your rates depends mainly on the insurance company you're using and your overall driving history.
On average, car insurance rates in Louisiana go up about $16 per month following a distracted driving violation.
Plus, if you've got a safe driver discount, you can probably kiss that goodbye. Distracted driving will almost certainly disqualify you from receiving this discount. This can cause your rate increase to be even more significant.
What if I Drive into Another State?
Distracted driving laws vary from state to state, so if you drive into a neighboring state that has different restrictions, you may wonder how these laws pertain to you as a Louisiana resident.
Any time you drive into another state, you're required to follow their laws. Claiming ignorance of the law won't get you out of a citation, so be sure to review the laws of other states before taking a car trip.
What Is Louisiana Doing to Prevent Distracted Driving?
Louisiana’s high penalties for violations of the state’s distracted driving law are a good deterrent, but many feel that the law, as it stands, does not go far enough to make the roadways safe.
Currently, some state lawmakers are working to ban the use of all handheld cell phones by drivers. Previous attempts to do this have failed, and may fail again, but tenacious lawmakers like State Representative Mike Huval are continuing the fight on behalf of citizens who have lost loved ones in distracted driving accidents.
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 until you get home.