Nevada’s Inattentive Driving Law Is About More Than Texting

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Reno’s inattentive driving laws are intended to reduce the number of accidents caused by drivers who text, apply makeup, eat, drink, or engage in activities that take their attention off the road. These rules of the road are strictly enforced throughout the state and are having an impact on the number of distracted driving accidents recorded in Nevada.

Penalties for Inattentive Driving

The law empowers law enforcement officers to issue citations for careless or inattentive driving. Members of law enforcement agencies across the state have the authority to determine whether a motorist’s actions distracted their attention from the safe operation of a motor vehicle. Drivers who are cited for inattentive driving can face a fine of more than $305.

Defining Inattentive Driving

The inattentive driving law that went into effect in 2016 does not cover telephone related offenses such as talking or texting while driving. Those remain governed by other statutes. Rather, it expands the definition of distracted driving to include other offenses that pose a significant risk to motorists and pedestrians.

These activities include eating while driving, applying makeup, grooming, brushing teeth, excessive fiddling with control dials, reaching for objects in the back or passenger seat, etc. The law gives broad discretion to law enforcement to determine whether these activities interfere with the individual’s ability to safely operate the motor vehicle. The benchmark law enforcement is required to use is whether or not the activities of the driver impaired visual sightlines, manual control of the vehicle, or cognitive focus on the road.

Curbing Distracted Driving Deaths

Distracted driving deaths are rising across the country. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 9 people die and more than 1,000 accidents occur every day because of a distracted driver. In 2016, the CDC recorded more than 3,450 deaths due to distracted driving. It is estimated that as many as 10% of motor vehicle accidents in the United States involve some form of distracted driving.

While previous laws have specifically targeted cell phone use and texting, few legislatures or municipalities have passed laws that target a wide range of distracted driving behaviors. The City of Reno passed the inattentive driving law in an effort to close that gap. It is part of the state’s “Zero Fatalities Nevada” initiative and is intended to make the state’s roads safer for motorists and pedestrians.