Criminal Defense

Distracted Driving Laws in Nevada

Distracted DriverIn Nevada, there is a growing movement to cease distracted driving, and laws are now being enacted to stop this dangerous activity. Distracted driving is a habit with serious consequences to yourself and others around you. Distracted driving encompasses any and all activities that can impair your visual (eyes off the road), manual (hands off the wheel), or mental (mind off the road) focus while driving. And in an event where a fraction of a second can be the difference between life and death, distractions have no place on the road. Distractions can come in many forms. Some have been going on for awhile, like putting on makeup in the mirror or eating while driving.

More recently, however, a more troubling distraction has entered the car: the cell phone. As cell phones have become smart phones, the distraction power only increases, as phone calls, text messages, Twitter, Facebook, etc. are all at your fingertips. Most states in the U.S. don’t punish drivers who are doing distracting activities like eating or smoking, but the increase in accidents is directly due to cell phone use. With the fact that young, inexperienced drivers are some of the most common users, the lack of enforcement for distracted driving has come to an end. In Nevada, with the recent distracted driving laws, driving while distracted in certain circumstances is not only dangerous, it’s illegal and costly as well.

What’s in the Law?

In 2011, a new law, NRS 484B.165, was added to Nevada’s Rules of the Road. Police began enforcing the law in 2012 and continue to do so today. More commonly known as the distracted driving law or “hands-free” law, NRS 484B.165 set out to reduce traffic fatalities and accidents by stopping the use of cell phones while driving for almost every purpose. It is specifically stated in the law that drivers cannot: “Manually type or enter text into a cellular telephone … or send or read data … or search the Internet or engage in non-voice communications,” nor can drivers use a cell phone “to engage in voice communication.”

Please note: it is not a violation of this law to call for help. You may use your phone to dial 911 or to summon assistance from authorities for yourself or a third person under any circumstances. Examples would be reporting accidents or criminal activity. You are also NOT violating this statute if you calling in response to an urgent situation and you reasonably believe that by complying you will place yourself or another person in immediate danger.

While nearly all use of a cell phone is illegal, one big exception, which gave the law its “hands-free” nickname, is the ability to use phones to talk with a hands-free device. Hands-free devices can include Bluetooth earpieces and car-integrated communication, or simply turning on speaker phone if you can put the phone down somewhere. The law does allow for drivers to use a phone to “activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function on the device,” essentially stating that picking up and hanging up a phone call are both acceptable provided you don’t hold the phone to converse.

There are a few other exceptions to the distracted driving law, but few involve scenarios that the common person would ever experience. Emergency personnel, ranging from EMTs to amateur radio operators to firefighters and police officers, are allowed to break this law provided they are “acting within the course and scope of his or her employment.” Two-way radios are allowed to be used provided “all the controls for operating the device, other than the microphone and a control to speak” are on a separate unit from the microphone.

Punishment for this offense can be costly. It is considered a misdemeanor, but multiple offenses can produce ever-increasing fines. Over the course of a few years, the escalating fines can become prohibitive for many people.

This is why it is important to remain focused while behind the wheel. For young and unexperienced drivers, this is especially important. No one wants to hurt themselves or others over something as simple as sending a text.

Always do what you can to stay completely focused on the road. However, if you have been ticketed for distracted driving, you may have some recourse. Because the administration of distracted driving tickets by law enforcement is subjective, an experienced criminal lawyer can walk you through your options and help you fight potentially erroneous charges.