New Ban on Social Media Use While Driving

Posted on Apr 22, 2013 in DUI/DWI, Local Issues

Texting and driving has been a major concern for law enforcement officials and legislators in the last several years, as more and more teens hit the road with their cell phones in tow. But now, according to New Orleans criminal lawyers, law makers have turned to a new form of distracted driving—using social media while driving.

Last month, the Louisiana Senate Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee approved a bill that seeks to fine drivers who are caught using their cellphones to update statuses on Facebook, tweet messages to their friends, or capture the road on social picture sharing site Instagram. Senate Bill 147 was drafted by Senator Dale Erdey. Its enactment will close a loophole in previous laws that ban drivers only from texting while driving. Police have seen an increase in drivers using social media—in several cases, an officer pulled over a driver for texting only to discover that he or she was using Facebook instead.

New Orleans DUI and DWI lawyers say that distracted driving is just as dangerous as driving under the influence—in both cases, a driver’s vision is compromised, and his attention is divided between the road and his reading material. Answering a text or responding to a tweet causes the same loss of focus that alcohol does for a driver on the road. In the bill, Erdey cited a statistic showing that a driver reading a text takes his eyes away from the road for an average of 5 seconds, and argued that posting on Facebook or Twitter would distract the driver for an even longer span of time.

But while law enforcement officials have several resources at their disposal to determine how much a distracted driver has had to drink—field sobriety tests and breathalyzers, police may have a harder time definitively proving that a driver is using a social networking site immediately before being pulled over. Because the bill is aimed at limiting only the use of social media, the use of other internet sites is not included in the ban. The exact language of the bill designates the banned sites as “any web-based service that allows [drivers] to construct a profile within a bounded systems, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and communicate with others members of the site.”

Bill 147 outlines the fines for using social media as the same as those for texting while driving – $175 for a first offense, and $500 for any other offense. These fines were first introduced for texting in 2008, when Louisiana state passed a law making texting a “primary offense,” and allowed police officers to pull drivers over if they suspected drivers of texting.

Criminal attorney Seth Bloom at New Orleans law firm Bloom Legal hopes that limiting driving distractions on the road will cut back on accidents and dangerous driving. But the new bill also emphasizes a need for police officers to prove the use of social media sites while driving. If you have been fined for distracted driving, be sure that you know the law, so that you can avoid future fines and penalties. Contact an experienced criminal attorney at Bloom Legal today.

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