Does Cell Phone Use While Driving = Negligence in Rhode Island?

The Rhode Island Bar Journal has an interesting article on in their March/April issue (Volume 57, Number 5) by B. Mitchell Simpson, III, a law professor at Roger Williams University School of Law.

The article, entitled “Don’t curse ’em, sue ’em!: Cell Phone Use While Driving as Evidence of Negligence” is available to download as a PDF here.

In this article, Simpson notes that the Rhode Island Supreme Court has not ruled on the use of cell phones while driving.  He does, however, point to relevant case law and jury instructions in determining whether cell phone use interferes with a driver keeping a “proper lookout.”  Additionally, Simpson thoroughly examines the ways in which other jurisdictions have handled this question.

It should be noted as well that the Rhode Island General Assembly has taken up legislation in recent years that would prohibit the use of cell phones while driving and the practice of text messaging while driving.  These bills have not passed, although legislation prohibiting the use of cell phones for drivers under the age of 18 did pass and is now the law.

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2 responses to “Does Cell Phone Use While Driving = Negligence in Rhode Island?

  1. Of course, because Rhode Island is a “comparative fault state,” R.I. Gen. L. sec. 9-20-4, then a plaintiff’s use of a cell phone might also operate to reduce his or her recovery of damages.

  2. It has always provided fertile grounds for settlement discussions.

    There are hundreds of studies about cellphone use while driving, some of which equate it with a level of impairment similar to being intoxicated. Never hurts to have a copy available for an arbitration.

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