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Is It Legal to Text While Stuck in Traffic?

If you've been paying attention, you're probably aware that texting while driving is against the law in almost every state.

But you might be wondering whether laws that prohibit texting while driving also apply to times when you might be behind the wheel, but not actually going anywhere, such as when you're stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Is it legal to text while stuck in traffic?

Texting While Driving Laws Vary by State

Though each of the 49 states with some form of prohibition on texting while driving have their own version of the law, in most of these states, any time you are behind the wheel of a running vehicle on a public street, you are likely prohibited from texting.

For example, Rhode Island's texting while driving law specifically notes that the ban does not apply to a vehicle that is:

  • Parked, standing, or stopped and is removed from the flow of traffic, in accordance with applicable laws, rules, or ordinances; or
  • Stopped due to the inoperability of such motor vehicle.
Although being stuck in gridlock can certainly feel like being "removed from the flow of traffic" it isn't likely to fly as a defense to a citation under this statute.

In a limited number of states, the law may be interpreted to allow for texting in traffic. In Florida, for example, the texting while driving statute notes that "a motor vehicle that is stationary is not being operated and is not subject to the prohibition." If you are at a complete stop in traffic, you may be able to argue that you are stationary and thus not subject to the state's prohibition on texting while operating a vehicle.

Reckless, Distracted Driving

In addition to state laws specifically dealing with texting while driving, any time you are taking your eyes and concentration off the road you may be violating other traffic laws, such as those that prohibit reckless driving or distracted driving. In addition, you may be opening yourself up to civil liability for an accident that causes injury to other drivers, pedestrians, or passengers in your vehicle.

Although it may be arguably legal in some areas, the only sure way to avoid legal trouble relating to texting while in traffic is to save your texting for when you get home.

To learn more about whether and how to fight traffic citations, check out FindLaw's Learn About the Law section on Traffic Tickets.

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