Ask a Lawyer: Texting and driving

The law permeates everything. Whether it be crossing the street, using your cell phone, or driving your car, everything has a law associated with it. That is why it is undeniably helpful to know the law and to know your rights. There are certain difficult situations when one may have a “run-in” with the law. Many of you may say that you follow the rules and don’t ever have run-ins with the law, yet sometimes, the law runs into us. You may not think you need the advice of a lawyer, but when you are sitting at a stop light and get hit from behind by an irresponsible driver, the world of law is immediately cast upon you. Don’t go at it alone.

Now let’s get down to business: One thing that nearly all of us own and use every day can get us into to trouble. It can be downright deadly if misused and many of us don’t know the rules associated with the proper time to use it. The cell phone — or smartphone — has seemingly become more common than wearing a watch. Why wear a watch if your cell phone can tell you what time it is, right? The problem is, that when people look at their phone to check the time, they are bound to also check if they have a new text, voice mail or email – and if they do, they are going to be tempted to read or respond to it. This often happens while the individual is driving a car.

As of Oct. 1, 2011, it is illegal in Nevada to text, access the Internet and/or talk on a hand-held cell phone while driving a vehicle. The fine for the first offense is $50, the second offense is $100 and the third offense (within 7 years) is $250. The fines can double if you are using your cell phone unlawfully in a work zone.

So, what can you do with your cell phone while you’re driving? Well, you can have a conversation. Yes – you can use your cell phone and have the most illuminating and revealing conversation of your life, as long as it is done through a hands-free device. If you have a Bluetooth earpiece or a phone that can be heard through the stereo speakers, you can legally talk on your cell phone while driving.

Here is the tricky part: If you are pressing the numbers on your phone to call an individual and your car is moving, you would be in violation of the law, even if the rest of the conversation would be handled entirely through a hands-free device. Ending the call is considered a violation of the law should you be looking down and reaching for your phone in an effort to find the “end” button. (Also note, in Nevada, changing the radio station is considered a form of “distracted driving.”)

In the same manner, entering the destination address on your car’s navigation system or your smartphone navigation application while you are cruising down the road constitutes a violation of Nevada law. But remember, citizens are at liberty to use a hand-held cell phone in a moving vehicle for the purposes of reporting a medical emergency, a safety hazard or reporting criminal activity.

My advice to you is that if you should get a text, call, or e-mail that you simply cannot wait to read and/or respond to, before picking up your phone, take the next exit and pull over in a safe and secure area, put your car in park, and then legally utilize your smartphone. Likewise, entering the address of your destination before you begin driving the vehicle is the best way a driver can use a navigation system. The only other options are being pulled over by the police and ticketed for a violation of the law or, alternatively, plowing into the back of the abruptly stopped car and potentially changing the trajectory of your entire life. Follow this law and protect yourself and those around you.

Return every week to read my legal post and you will be surprised about what you can legally do, what you cannot do, and what can be done to you!

Got something you’d like to ask a lawyer? Email your question to social@reviewjournal.com.

This information is for educational purposes and should not be considered specific legal advice. Always consult with a qualified attorney regarding your individual circumstances.

Marc Saggese is the owner of The Law Offices of Saggese & Associates. He has been a Las Vegas personal injury and criminal defense attorney for over 15 years. Mr. Saggese writes weekly about various issues of the law for reviewjournal.com. For more information visit www.MaxLawNV.com or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin.

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