According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), there are currently 41 states that ban text messaging for all drivers. Further, 12 states prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones at all.
Kansas is one of the 41 states which bans text messaging. According to state law, it is illegal for a driver to use a wireless communication device to “write, send, or read a written communication.” This type of communication includes, but is not limited to, text messages, instant messages, or e-mail. There is a $60 fine for those convicted of texting while driving.
There are, however, some notable exceptions to this rule. Thankfully, lawmakers understand that there are some situations in which using a mobile device to send or receive written communication is necessary. These situations generally include:
- Law enforcement needs;
- When stopped off the regular traveled portion of the road;
- Making or receiving a phone call;
- Receiving an emergency or traffic alert message;
- Receiving a message related to the operation or navigation of the vehicle;
- Reporting unlawful activity; and
- Reporting imminent injuries to person or property.
The law seems simple enough and easy to understand. However, Kansas police, along with law enforcement throughout the nation have found it difficult to enforce a state's texting while driving laws.
It can be especially difficult when an officer is patrolling alone. Many Kansas officers have said that two people are necessary to spot drivers who are texting. “Because if I'm going to try to pay attention to who's texting while driving, I'm going to have an accident,” said Lawrence Police Chief Tarik Khatib. He noted that it is also helpful if the officer observing is at a higher vantage point.
Of course, it is not always possible for two officers to patrol together. An alternative is to patrol while parked, but that isn't so effective either. Officers say that other motorists are really in the best position to spot texters. Meanwhile, reports show that accidents caused by Kansas drivers being distracted by cell phones rose from 292 in 2005 to 518 in 2010.
More issues come up because of the permitted exceptions to the texting law. Phones are typically only examined when it's necessary to prove that texting was the source of a distraction in serious accidents causing death or severe injuries.
In Kansas City, KS, officers are also facing challenges related to the text messaging ban. This is pretty clear based on the numbers: in 2012, the Johnson County Sheriff's office issued only 17 tickets for texting while driving. Meanwhile, Overland Park Police issued 45 in 2011 and only 40 in 2012.
One difficult situation for metro police is that when drivers are stopped for texting, they often point to one of the exceptions as to why they may have been texting behind the wheel.
Laws involving texting and smart phones are constantly being revised and reformed. It is important for Kansas drivers to be aware of the current laws in the state in order to avoid unwanted interaction with police.
If you have been charged with traffic offenses and are seeking legal representation, contact my office. I work with clients in both Kansas and Missouri and would be happy to schedule a consultation.