Louisiana has many laws regarding using a cell phone or similar handheld
communications device behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. For over a
decade, the state has banned texting while driving and, since 2013, drivers
are not permitted to use a handheld cell phone or electronic communications
device to read, look at, or post to social media.
Currently (as of May 2021), it is unlawful to use a cell phone or any other
type of wireless communications device to engage in the following activities
- Read, write, or send a text message
- Read, write, or send an instant message, email, or similar type of text-based
- Look at, scroll through, read, or post to any social media platform
- Make a phone call in a school zone during posted school hours
But what about using a cell phone to make a call? Do you have to use a
hands-free device to talk on the phone while driving in Louisiana?
The answer is, it depends. In some cases, yes, you must use a hands-free
device to make a call while operating a motor vehicle; in other instances,
you can use a handheld device to call or talk on the phone—but this
is likely to change soon.
Who Cannot Use a Handheld Device to Talk on the Phone While Driving?
As of May 2021, you cannot make a phone call on a handheld device while
driving in a school zone during posted school hours in Louisiana. Additionally,
drivers with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses cannot
use handheld cell phones or similar electronic communications devices
to make phone calls at any time behind the wheel except in the case of
emergency or to report alleged criminal activity. Drivers under the age
of 18 may not use a cell phone whatsoever, including hands-free devices,
while operating a motor vehicle in Louisiana except in an emergency or
to report criminal activity.
In all other circumstances, it is currently legal to use a handheld cell
phone to make a phone call while driving. But recent legislative actions
are pushing to ban the use of all handheld electronic communications devices,
including cell phones, on all roadways in Louisiana.
Louisiana’s Proposed Handheld Device Ban
House Bill 565 (HB565)—which has already won approval in the Louisiana Senate Transportation
Committee by a vote of 5 -1 and is currently pending final passage in
the House—would ban the use of handheld cell phones and similar
communications devices while driving on any roadway in Louisiana.
Specifically, the proposed bill would make it unlawful for any motorist
of any age to hold or otherwise physically support a cell phone or “wireless
telecommunications device in either or both hands or with any part of
the body, except for an earpiece or headphone device or a device worn
on the wrist to talk or listen during a voice transmission.”
The law would not prohibit the use of a cell phone to make a call while
driving, but drivers will need to use a hands-free device to talk on the
phone behind the wheel if the bill passes. Additionally, the proposed
bill does not affect the state’s current ban on texting while driving
or using a handheld communications device to send text-based communications
or use social media.
The Dangers of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving has always been a problem, but it became exponentially
more pervasive—and arguably more dangerous—with the increased
prevalence of cell phones and other forms of portable technology.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA),
more than 3,100 Americans lost their lives in 2019 due to distracted driving. Even something as simple as reading a text, which takes the driver’s
eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds, could result in a fatal
crash. At 55 miles per hour, you would travel the entire length of a football
field without looking at the road.
In Louisiana, distracted driving-related accidents have been on the rise.
In the past five years, crashes involving distracted drivers who were
using cell phones have increased by more than 33%, while overall distracted
driving-related traffic collisions have gone up by 2.6%, according to
data compiled by the Center for Analytics and Research in Transportation Safety
(CARTS) at Louisiana State University. Although distracted driving-related
accident reports for 2021 are still ongoing, early data suggest that this
trend is going to continue.
What to Do If You Were Injured by a Distracted Driver
Unfortunately, distracted driving could have serious, real-life consequences.
If you were involved in an accident with someone who was texting while
driving, unlawfully using a cell phone to make a call, or otherwise distracted
behind the wheel, you may have grounds for a
personal injury claim.
Distracted driving is not just against the law—it is also a clear
form of negligence. In Louisiana, injured motorists can bring claims against
negligent drivers’ insurance companies and/or sue negligent drivers
At The Womac Law Firm, our New Orleans distracted driving accident lawyers
have extensive experience navigating complex car and motor vehicle accident
cases. We understand the law and know how to build powerful cases for
our clients. Our goal is to recover the maximum compensation you are owed
so you can get back on your feet and move forward with your life.
To learn more, including how our firm can help you with your New Orleans
car accident case, call us at (504) 470-3935 or contact us online
to request a free consultation.