In Mississippi, distracted driving is the second leading cause of traffic fatalities. Each year, more than 3,000 people are killed in crashes involving a distracted driver. Distracted driving may arguably be more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. In fact, 25% of fatal crashes in Mississippi are attributed to some form of distraction, which is a rate comparable to that involving alcohol impairment.
In an effort to combat the astounding rate of distracted driving, the Mississippi Highway Patrol has launched a new safe driving campaign entitled “Pay Attention or Pay a Fine.” The campaign, which launched in November, is aimed at reminding Mississippi drivers to focus on the road and tune out the myriad of possible distractions around them.
Trooper Tony Dunn, a highway patrol spokesman, described the campaign as follows: during the campaign, troopers will have unmarked police cars on the lookout for anyone who appears to be driving distractedly. If they spot a distracted driver, a marked unit will be immediately dispatched. Both the unmarked and marked police cars will then pull the vehicle over and issue a citation.
Dunn further explained that while people tend to think of cell phones as the main cause of distraction, there are plenty of other things that pull driver’s attention from the road. He said anything from turning the radio knob to putting on make-up in the morning is a form of distraction that can lead to deadly accidents.
In Mississippi, the use of cell phones while driving is only banned for new teen drivers and bus drivers. This places the state in the minority, as currently 41 states and the District of Columbia have enacted bans on texting while driving. Eleven of these states, along with the District of Columbia, have total bans on the use of cell phones by drivers.
Given the alarming rate of distracted drivers and the potential for tragic consequences, Mississippi Highway Patrol troopers hope the new campaign is effective in promoting its safe driving message. Thus far, the campaign appears to be successful. In less than two hours in Oxford, undercover troopers spotted 10 careless drivers. Most of these drivers were on their cell phones. Troopers feel that the use of unmarked vehicles will lead to more citations, as most drivers will not know they are being watched.
Since the state does not have a general law against the use of cell phones while driving, troopers must use existing states laws to warn distracted drivers. Mississippi does have laws against careless and reckless driving. Careless driving is defined as driving in an imprudent or careless manner without due regard for traffic, highways, other drivers, curves, corners, and the like. Careless drivers can be fined up to $50.
Reckless driving is a more serious offense, defined as driving in such a way as to indicate willful disregard for the safety of persons or property. This offense comes with a maximum fine of $100 for the first offense and $500 for a second offense. Repeat offenders can be sentenced to up to 10 days in prison.
Since distracted drivers frequently drive in a careless or reckless manner, troopers will be able to use these existing laws to combat distracted driving. With its new campaign, Mississippi is making a strong statement that it will not tolerate distracted driving. Hopefully, Mississippi drivers will respond.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a distracted driver, you may have the right to recover in a personal injury action. At the John D. Giddens Law Firm, we have extensive experience representing distracted driving victims and take pride in our vast knowledge of this specific accident field. It is crucial that you contact us as soon as possible after your accident so that we can start gathering evidence and fight for your recovery. Call the Giddens Law Firm today at 601-355-2022 for a free case analysis.