Montana Is Last State With No Texting-While-Driving Ban - Law and Daily Life
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Montana Is Last State With No Texting-While-Driving Ban

When South Carolina's new law against texting while driving went into effect on Monday, Montana officially became the last state in the nation with no statewide ban on texting while driving.

But as The Associated Press reports, Montana isn't far behind: Currently, a dozen cities and two counties in the state prohibit texting while driving, and state legislators have plans to introduce a bill to ban the use of cell phones while driving in 2015.

So aside from portions of Montana, what can happen if you get caught texting and driving anywhere else in the United States?

Criminal Penalties

The punishment for being cited for texting while driving (in the 49 states that have some sort of law against it) ranges from fines to possible points on your driving record in states that use a points system to penalize drivers.

If your texting leads to an accident, you may be charged with reckless driving. Reckless driving is typically considered driving with a willful disregard for the safety others or for the consequences of your driving, and can carry jail time along with fines and possible license suspension or revocation.

Civil Liability

In addition to criminal penalties, texting while driving can also expose you to civil liability in the event that anyone is injured or killed in an accident that occurs while you're texting.

One factor used in determining liability in a car accident was whether one or both parties involved acted negligently, causing the accident. In some cases, violating a law designed to protect the public from a specific type of harm -- e.g., a law banning texting while driving that aims to prevent traffic accidents -- can lead to liability when violation of the law causes the type of harm the law was meant to protect. This follows a legal principle known as negligence per se.

Safety Is at Issue

Above all else, texting while driving just isn't safe. Whether it's crashing into manure trucks or being involved in a fatal head-on collision, texting while driving has caused more than its fair share of accidents, injuries, and deaths, which is why South Carolina just joined 48 other states in enacting some sort of ban.

As the AP explains, 44 states and the District of Columbia prohibit texting for drivers of all ages, while four other states have less-restrictive laws. You can look up the texting-while-driving laws in your state at a site maintained by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

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