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The Surprising Variations in Distracted Driving Legislation From State to State

Think texting and driving is illegal throughout the country? Think again.

Today's world emphasizes multitasking and staying connected through technology almost constantly.

While entertainment and interactions are available at the swipe of a fingertip, taking advantage of them while driving has led to an increase in fatal and nonfatal car accidents.

"While experts agree distracted driving is underreported, the 3,331 deaths attributed to distraction-affected crashes in 2011 increased 1.9 percent (to 3,267) over distraction-affected fatalities in 2010," according to a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

As a result, legislators have struggled to address the problem and create laws they hope will curb the trend. Here are five interesting pieces of distracted driving legislation from around the country.

1. The interesting case of Montana

If you're nervous about other people texting on the road, pay extra careful attention during your next trip to Yellowstone or one of Montana's beautiful parks.

One of the only states with no laws on the book to regulate either the use of hand-held cellphones while operating vehicles or texting while driving is Montana.

One reason for this could be the small population and wide-open nature of the state. Distracted driving is always a bad idea but is more immediately dangerous when you are driving with many pedestrians and other vehicles.

Montana is, however, collecting crash data on distracted driving, and that could lead to legislation at a later date.

2. States agree on banning text messaging

With all the data on the danger of texting and driving, you'd think texting and driving would be banned in all states.

It's close: 47 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands all ban text messaging when someone is operating a vehicle.

3. Teens and bus drivers

Many states have laws on the books specifically banning all use of cellphones by teens and bus drivers.

The rationale here is simple: There are no good reasons for these already-distracted drivers to ever add another distracting element to their drives.

What's surprising is, while 38 states and Washington, D.C., ban all cellphone use for teens, only 21 states and the District of Columbia have laws that prohibit any cellphone use for school bus drivers, according to the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine.

4. Distracted driving in strategic highway safety planning

Although cellphone use and other forms of distracted driving have increased car accidents in the last several years, some states have been slow to incorporate planning surrounding the situation into their highway safety.

In fact, Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina and West Virginia are only a few of the states that have not included distracted driving in their highway safety planning, as data from the Governors Highway Safety Association shows.

To date, 39 states and Washington, D.C., have addressed this increasingly important issue.

5. Limits to legislation

Even with law enforcement concerns and many limitations on how drivers can use cellphones in most states, legislatures around the country still recognize that, in some situations, people can use devices in a responsible manner while driving.

You may be surprised to learn that "no state bans all cellphone use for all drivers," according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

One activity usually permitted in these states is using cellphones with a hands-free device, like a Bluetooth headset.

Another is using a mounted cellphone stand near a vehicle's center dashboard to hear spoken GPS instructions or to talk on the phone.

One reason these types of activities are usually permitted is because of how similar interacting with a mounted mobile device is to using standard vehicle features like CD players or radios. However, if police officers see a driving violation caused by fiddling with devices of any sort, they have cause to issue a citation.

Distracted driving education and prevention

To learn more about what constitutes distracted driving and how to beat the temptation to use your cellphone or other distractions in the car, read more at End Distracted Driving.

This message is proudly sponsored by WMC Tri-State Medical Network.

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