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Growing number of states criminalizes texting while driving

Earlier this week, a teenager was sentenced to 2 ½ years behind bars -- with a year to serve, and the remainder suspended -- for a fatal car accident that happened while he was texting. His sentence reflects a growing trend in many states to criminalize cell phone use while driving.

But not in Montana, at least yet. In 2011, the state Senate rejected a bill that would have prohibited use of handheld cell phones and text messaging while driving in Montana. That failure may have been met with particular disappointment by the Montana Transportation Committee, who had twice supported the proposed bill.

According to a recent estimate by The National Safety Council, more than 20% of all traffic crashes in 2011 involved distracted drivers using cell phones. That amounts to more than 1 million accidents. Of that number, most were talking, while about 100,000 drivers were texting.

In a finding by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a driver using a hand-held cell phone may be up to 4 times more likely to cause a crash. Given that research, it's no wonder that many states now require a hands-free accessory for anyone using a "mobile electronic device" while driving.

Understanding your legal rights as a victim is a complex subject you might not have time to properly address in the aftermath of a car accident. You may have serious injuries, medical bills, impaired job function, insurance claims and countless other distractions of your time. Even if the issue of fault seems clear to you -- because the other driver was texting, for example -- the recovery you seek may still be met with resistance.

If you have been injured by another driver's negligence, it is important that you have an attorney on your side to find other possible evidence and help argue a version of events that allows a jury to properly interpret the evidence that is presented. An attorney can advise you on what claims you may have, and help you prepare the best evidence to prove those claims.

Source: USA Today, "Mass. teen guilty in fatal texting-while-driving crash," June 7, 2012

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