Almost everybody knows that they shouldn’t do it but texting and driving remains all too common in Kansas.

It is considered one of the most serious forms of “distracted driving”, along with talking on the phone, eating, applying makeup and talking to passengers. Texting and driving is also illegal but it’s no exaggeration to call it an epidemic not only in this state but nationwide — and it can lead to serious vehicle accidents.

In fact, many accidents involving texting and driving are fatal because such actions while in charge of a moving vehicle and not observing the road can cause complete loss of control of the vehicle — often veering into oncoming traffic or causing rear-end collisions at high speeds.

Distracted driving statistics in Kansas

Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving. In the U.S., distracted driving caused 3,522 fatalities in 2021. That’s almost ten fatalities per day!

Kansas has one of the highest distracted driving rates in the country and is generally placed in the top 5-10 states for the worst statistics.

Of all the distracted driving car wrecks:

  • Around one in four are caused by cellphone use
  • Around two-thirds are caused by applying makeup, reading, eating or talking to passengers

Almost one in ten are caused by using other electronic devices

Kansas distracted driving laws

Texting on an electronic device is illegal and is considered one of the most common — and most dangerous — forms of distracted driving.

K.S.A. § 8-15,111 states the following:

“No person shall operate a motor vehicle on a public road or highway while using a wireless communications device to write, send or read a written communication.”

However, using a smartphone for other purposes is not necessarily illegal if it does not lead to distracted driving, except for young drivers. Besides, exceptions are made in the following circumstances:

  1. A law enforcement officer or emergency service personnel acting within the course and scope of the law enforcement officer’s or emergency service personnel’s employment.
  2. a motor vehicle stopped off the regular traveled portion of the roadway.
  3. a person who reads, selects or enters a telephone number or name in a wireless communications device for the purpose of making or receiving a phone call.
  4. a person who receives an emergency, traffic or weather alert message; or
  5. a person receiving a message related to the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle.

A driver may also text to report current or continuing illegal activity, prevent injury to a person/property or relay information between a for-hire driver and dispatcher on a permanently installed device.

Distracted driving laws for young drivers in Kansas

Young drivers in Kansas are subject to additional laws that help safeguard other road users, including the following restrictions:

  • A driver between the ages of 14 and 17 with a permit and drivers with a restricted license or farm permit from any use of an electronic device other than reporting illegal activity or getting medical or emergency help.
  • Drivers between the ages of 16 and 18 cannot have more than one non-immediate family member under age 18 in a vehicle.
  • Drivers under age 16 with a restricted or farm license cannot have any non-sibling passengers under age 18 in a vehicle.

The penalties for failing to follow the distracted driving laws in Kansas include fines, the suspension of driving privileges and the payment of court costs/attorney’s fees. Drivers may also face a potentially substantial increase in insurance rates.

If an accident and injuries result from a case of distracted driving while texting or carrying out any other action (illegal or not), the driver may be charged with reckless driving or even vehicular homicide if a death results from these actions.

Common types of distracted driving

Distracted driving is not just about texting, calling or using social media on a smartphone while driving — though these are the instances that frequently make the headlines.

Other common types of distracted driving cause accidents and, even if they are not illegal, could result in an accident and other driving charges. This includes:

  • Eating or drinking while driving
  • Applying makeup or other personal care activities
  • Disciplining children
  • Playing with a dog or other pet
  • Reaching for an entertainment system or other item in the car
  • Interacting with passengers
  • Playing loud music that drowns out other sounds (e.g., emergency vehicle sirens)

Ultimately, not paying attention to the road for a few seconds for almost any reason is unacceptable, especially if it is at speed. Many things can go wrong even in a single second behind the wheel.

Even if you do not engage in an illegal activity, it doesn’t excuse the behavior. The best way is to stop the car and tend to anything that requires you to take your eyes off the road — especially if you need to use your phone.

Injuries in distracted driving accidents

22 percent of fatal car crashes in Kansas in 2021 were due to distracted driving. Additionally, many road-related injuries result from distracted driving — often serious cases involving traumatic brain injuries, spinal injuries, partial or total paralysis, etc.

A distracted driver can expect to be liable for significant compensation to a victim who files a personal injury claim in Kansas.

How can a distracted driving accident attorney help?

Any individual injured in a car accident due to distracted driving by the at-fault party could benefit from hiring a distracted driving attorney.

Personal injury claims in such circumstances may seem straightforward but this is rarely the case when large sums of money are sought for compensation. Loss adjusters from third-party insurance companies usually attempt to limit the payout by shifting some (or all) of the fault and may vehemently contest the claim.

Kansas has “comparative negligence” laws that may reduce the amount of recovery if part of the fault is shifted onto the injured party.

The case is best handled by a lawyer as insurance companies often employ tricks to try to get claimants to state things that damage their compensation case. Never accept a settlement without checking first with a qualified personal injury attorney.

A distracted driving attorney will investigate your case thoroughly to gather evidence, including going through police records, subpoenaing cell phone records or vehicle black box data, analyzing any video from CCTV cameras and interviewing eyewitnesses.

We can also approach experts such as medical professionals and accident reconstruction specialists to strengthen your claim if necessary.

Your personal injury lawyer will also handle all communications with the insurance company, freeing you to focus on recovery from your injuries.

We will be prepared for litigation and to prove liability if an agreeable out-of-court settlement is not reached — and will not settle for anything less than the maximum, including pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life if applicable (in the case of serious injury).

If you or a loved one has been injured from distracted driving in Topeka, speak to a personal injury lawyer at ITR Law during a free case evaluation. We will advise you of your legal options and assess how best to claim the compensation you deserve for your accident injuries.