What are Connecticut’s distracted driving laws?

Connecticut has several laws concerning distracted driving, some of which specifically address young drivers.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2017, 3,166 people were killed in car accidents that were caused by a distracted driver. Between 2012 and 2017, distracted driving was the cause of almost 20,000 fatal accidents. These national statistics are staggering, and highlight just how dangerous distracted driving can be.

Here in Connecticut, distracted driving is taken extremely seriously. Our state has laws in place addressing one of the most common distractions: talking or texting on the phone. Many campaigns and promotions are centered on discouraging the use of phones while driving. One such campaign is the "U Drive. U Text. U Pay," that runs every April.

What the law says

Most states or municipalities have a guideline that restricts or prohibits some type of phone use. Often, these laws include whether or not a driver can use a handheld or a hands-free device. While hands-free technology is intended to reduce the risk of cellphone use behind the wheel, studies show that it can be just as dangerous as actually holding a phone.

With that in mind, Connecticut regulations address both factors. The state's laws include the following:

  • No driver is permitted to use a handheld device or text while driving.
  • Novice drivers - or those younger than 18 or with a learner's permit - may not use a handheld or hands-free device.
  • Bus drivers may not use a handheld or hands-free device.

According to the law, even drivers whose vehicles are stopped at a traffic signal or sign are prohibited from these behaviors. Engaging in them could result in a fine, or worse, an accident.

Types of in-vehicle distractions

Distracted driving is not limited to just texting while driving or using a cellphone while driving. Any activity that compels the driver to take their hands off the steering wheel (or makes them lose focus on the road) constitutes distracted driving. By this definition, distracted driving can include:

  • Eating while driving
  • Drinking a beverage, such as coffee, while driving
  • Reading while driving
  • Applying makeup while driving
  • Talking to other passengers in a vehicle
  • Addressing issues with children in the back seat while driving
  • Frequently changing radio stations or tinkering with the dash buttons while driving

Young Drivers And Distractions

Connecticut's laws are especially strict when it comes to young drivers, and for good reason. According to Distraction.gov, young drivers are more likely to engage in distracted driving behaviors. This is especially disturbing when looking at road crash statistics. Of all the fatal accidents involving drivers aged 15 to 19, distracted driving contributed to 10% of the total number of incidents.

To prevent young drivers from taking their focus off the road, experts recommend teaching safe practices from the beginning. Teens can learn good habits by example. Parents should never use their phones or engage in other distractions while driving. One suggestion for parents is to place their phones inside a glove box so as not to be distracted by a message or call.

Distraction.gov also suggests that making young drivers sign a pledge not to engage in distractions while driving can reduce the number of accidents. Teenagers should be encouraged to call out their peers who are using their phones or otherwise losing focus while behind the wheel.

Distracted driving is a proven risky, and often deadly, behavior and should be avoided at all costs. Anyone who has questions or concerns about this issue should consult with an attorney.