Drivers caught texting and driving in Columbia City will soon be fined, under the new ban on sending cellphone text messages while driving in the city limits, according to news reports. The texting while driving ban took effect immediately after the Council approved the law at Tuesday night's vote.
Columbia Police officers said they will wait about 30 days before they begin writing tickets to drivers who are caught sending text messages. Until then, they will work to educate the community and warn them of the new law.
As a Columbia car accident attorney , I've looked into this new distracted driving bill. Here are some frequently asked questions about the new law, according to news reports:
Q. Can I still talk on the phone while driving?
Q. What about email? Facebook? Twitter?
A. No. The law says you cannot "compose, send or read a text-based communication" while driving in Columbia. That includes social media and email.
Q. My phone has a voice-activated text messaging feature. Is that legal?
A. Yes. As long as you are not reading it or typing it, it's legal.
Q. I don't remember phone numbers, so I look them up in my phone. Is that against the law?
A. No. The law specifically exempts people searching their phone for contact information.
Q. My phone has a GPS feature that I use all the time while driving. Will that get me in trouble?
A. No. The law also specifically exempts activating "an internal feature or function of the device." That includes GPS features.
Q. What if I'm stuck at a train on Assembly Street? Or stuck in traffic at Malfunction Junction? Or stopped at a red light?
A. That's fine. You are allowed to text while "lawfully parked or stopped." Just be sure to put your phone away once you start moving again.
Q. Will the police arrest me if I'm caught texting and driving?
A. No. The police also cannot take your phone, and they cannot search, or ask to search, you, your car or any of your passengers. But that rule only applies if the police are stopping you only for texting.
Q. So, what happens if I'm caught?
A. You get a $100 ticket. However, that's just the fine. You'll also have to pay court costs and processing fees, bringing the total to $237.50.
As a Columbia personal injury attorney , I'm glad to see some attention being paid to the dangers of texting while driving. I urge drivers to avoid all distractions including texting and talking on cell phones while driving to avoid car accidents.