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 while driving:
- Read, write, or send a text message
- Read, write, or send an instant message, email, or similar type of text-based communication
- 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 for compensation.
At 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.