A lot of media attention has been paid to the dangers of texting while driving. If a driver takes his or her eyes off the road long enough to send a text, he or she could cause a car crash. Rhode Island is among several states that prohibits texting and driving, but enforcing the law turns out to be more difficult than expected.
The city of Pawtucket has written only 53 citations for texting while driving in the past three years. According to reports, cities and towns in the rest of Rhode Island are not fairing much better, if not worse. Part of the issue is proof. A driver is not required to hand over his or her phone to a law enforcement official to verify whether he or she was texting.
Therefore, even if an officer observes what they believe to be behavior in violation of the law, they may not be able to prove it. The way the law is written addresses only receiving and sending texts. It does not ban the use of a cell phone for any other purpose while driving, such as dialing a phone number. Drivers are essentially left to police themselves.
Many drivers understand the dangers of this behavior, but some continue to put their lives and the lives of others in jeopardy in order to send a message when they should be paying attention to the road. Rhode Island residents who become victims of texting drivers retain the right to file personal injury claims in an attempt to recover monetary damages they incur as a result a car crash. If a family loses a loved one, they may file a wrongful death claim to the same end.
Source: abc6.com, "Texting and Driving law difficult to enforce", Samantha Lavien, May 21, 2014