Rhode Island State Police have more than doubled the number of citations written for texting while driving, and a recent Traffic Tribunal ruling stated you don’t have to be sending or receiving a text to violate that law. 

The state’s “text messaging” statute does not mention other potentially distracting uses of a phone, but the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal recently upheld a magistrate’s ruling that a driver who was using the GPS feature on his phone violated the law.

“Appellant need not be typing in order to be in violation,” the ruling stated. Nor must Appellant be “sending or receiving a text message at the time of operation in order to be in violation of the statute.”

As these cases move forward, statistics provided by state police show 513 distracted driving citations have been written so far this year, doubled the total of 231 written last year, and substantially higher than the 328 tickets written in 2014.

Under Rhode Island General Law (§ 31-22-30 Text messaging while operating a motor vehicle), No person shall use a wireless handset or personal wireless communication device to compose, read, or send text messages while driving a motor vehicle on any public street or public highway within the state of Rhode Island.

Any person who violates any of the provisions of this section shall, upon conviction, be subject to a fine of one hundred dollars ($100), or a license suspension for up to thirty (30) days, or both; for a second conviction a person shall be subject to a fine of one hundred fifty dollars ($150), or a license suspension for up to three (3) months, or both; and for a third or subsequent conviction a person shall be subject to a fine of two hundred fifty dollars ($250), or a license suspension for up to six (6) months, or both.

Once upon a time, Traffic Tribunal Magistrates were simply issuing fines for violations of the driving while texting statute; however, most Magistrates are now suspending licenses for 60 days in addition to monetary fines for violations.

The best thing you can do if you are issued a ticket for driving while texting is to find an experienced attorney to take on the case.  Attorney Barrett routinely handles driving while texting cases and can help you avoid having your license suspended.