Texting and Distracted Driving in Washington, D.C.

Motorist gets distracted driving because of texting.
Texting Is a Leading Cause of Auto Accidents

Across the country, distracted driving, especially texting, is becoming the leading cause of automobile accidents. This is partly due to behavioral changes in the population that favor multitasking and the need to get things done in the shortest amount of time. In fact, this behavior is so commonplace that many people fail to recognize the hazards associated with it.

Let’s delve into texting and learn about the enormity of the problem, how texting takes multiple layers of focus that should be on the road, why it is so dangerous and how an accident happens. We’ll also look at the penalties associated with texting while driving.

Incidence of Texting While Driving

In 2020, more than 3,400 people were killed annually due to distracted driving with 330,000 people injured due to texting. Overall, of all distracted drivers, 78 percent are injured by texting, making it the leading cause of accident injuries due to distraction. The chance of being in an accident is greater if you are texting than if you are driving drunk. 

Why Is Texting So Dangerous?

In order to read and write a text, a person uses three levels of distraction. The complexity of this explains why texting and driving are so dangerous:

  • Visual distraction: In order to write, read and send a text, you must look at the phone. In doing this, you are taking your visual focus off the road. If you cannot see the road ahead, the likelihood you will be able to stop in time if the traffic slows ahead or if a pedestrian crosses in front of your vehicle is slim. 
  • Manual distraction: Writing a text requires that you loosen your grasp of the wheel, at least partially. In order to drive safely, you must grasp the wheel with two hands and be able to make quick adjustments to your path to avoid an accident. 
  • Cognitive distraction: Drivers should think about the road ahead. When they fail to do that, you can say they are driving with a cognitive distraction. This is true when the motorist is thinking about the text and their response. 

How Distraction Can Cause an Accident

When you are texting, it takes about five seconds to read the message. Likewise, it takes five seconds to travel 120 yards at 55 mph. Let’s say 120 yards ahead, traffic slowed. The chance that you will be able to stop in time to avoid an accident is dismal if you are texting. 

Likewise, if another vehicle is swerving in your direction, the first thing you’ll want to do is swerve away from the oncoming car. On a highway this is difficult. It is even more difficult if the time you have to get out of the way is severely limited due to texting. The reality here is that you are 23 times more likely to be hit if you are distracted prior to the crash.

Consequences of Distracted Driving

Aside from an increased risk for serious injuries and fatalities, texting has other consequences. In Washington D.C., drivers are restricted from using a cell phone or texting while driving. It is legal to employ a hand-free venue to use the phone or to make emergency calls. 

The following penalties are levied if a cell phone is used to text or converse:

  • First offense: The fine for a first-time offender is $100 within an 18-month period. The fine can be offset if the offender shows that they bought a hands-free apparatus.
  • Second offense: If a driver drives distracted within an 18-month period, the fine will be $150.
  • Third offense: A third distracted driving offense within 18 months brings with it a $200 fine and a suspended license for 30 to 90 days.
  • Offenses involving death, property damage or injury: Here, serious injury, property damage of $10,000 or more or death is met with a $1,000 fine and/or 180 days in jail.

The Roeser Law Firm

The Roeser Law Firm is here to help if you are involved in an accident with a distracted driver. Call us at (202) 660-4070 to schedule a free case review. You can also reach us online. We have helped many clients injured in a car accident, truck crash or other events. Don’t go it alone. Let us help you during this difficult time. 

Zeke Roeser


3000 Connecticut Avenue NW
Suite 140
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 660-4070