Distracted Driving Laws in Alaska
Distracted driving in Alaska pertains to a variety of activities, including texting, reading or replying to email messages, talking on the phone, applying makeup or eating food while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. While only the act of texting and driving is illegal in the state, other types of distractions are just as dangerous and can often be deadly, especially amongst teenage motorists. According to national distracted driving facts, distractions such as these are responsible for causing more than 1,000 traffic injuries and nine fatalities each day.
While Alaska distracted driving laws focus primarily on texting, the act of reading or responding to emails or instant messages is also prohibited. If motorists break these laws and a law enforcement official catches them texting, then they may be responsible for paying a fine. Additionally, texting and driving accidents are often felony offenses, especially if an individual is injured or killed in the crash. For additional facts about distracted driving, review the information below.
What is distracted driving in Alaska?
While the distracted driving law in Alaska concerns to cell phone use, other types of distractions may relate to grooming or applying makeup, drug and alcohol use or talking to other passengers. However, other types of driving-related distractions may include the following:
- Driving a vehicle while angry or upset
- Operating a motor vehicle while tired, drowsy or unable to focus
- Taking certain types of prescription or over-the-counter medications
- Eating food, smoking or drinking beverages while operating a vehicle
- Changing radio stations or using a global positioning system (GPS)
- Talking on a phone and focusing on the conversation rather than the road ahead
- Unrestrained pets in a vehicle
Moreover, driving distractions such as these are direct contributors to many motor vehicle-related crashes. According to national distracted driving facts, using a mobile device while operating a vehicle increases the risk of becoming involved in a crash by nearly 400 percent. While using a hands-free component is generally safer than driving one-handed, drivers may still find themselves concentrating on their phone conservation more than the road ahead.
Distracted Driving Laws in Alaska for Handheld Devices
To reduce distracted driving accidents in Alaska, motorists are prohibited from operating a motor vehicle with a television, computer monitor, laptop screen or any other type of visual screen within their full view. Additionally, drivers cannot use their hands to communicate using any of these devices, unless they use voice-activated technology. Voice communication is not prohibited in the state of Alaska. Moreover, the state’s distracted driving law does not pertain to navigation systems or built-in audio equipment.
Texting and Driving Laws in Alaska
Texting while driving in Alaska is prohibited under state law. Additionally, motorists must refrain from reading their email or browsing the internet while operating a motor vehicle. Moreover, drivers cannot read or type text messages using any other types of communication devices (such as mobile phones or personal assistants), unless they are doing so using voice-activated technology.
Alaska Laws on Distracted Driving for Novice Drivers
While texting accidents are more prevalent amongst inexperienced teenage drivers, there are no texting and driving laws in AK that pertain specifically to novice motorists. However, other laws for teenage drivers pertain to passenger limits. Since teenage drivers in Alaska account for nearly 20 percent of all annual traffic accidents in the state, novice drivers with provisional drivers licenses cannot operate a motor vehicle with other passengers in the automobile, unless the passenger is 21 years of age or older or they are siblings of the teenage motorist.
Alaska Distracted Driving Regulations for CDL Holders
Under the AK distracted driving law, commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders cannot read or send text messages while operating a commercial vehicle, and they may not talk on the phone while driving unless they use a hands-free device. Moreover, CDL holders cannot make phone calls while operating a commercial vehicle unless they only need to press a single button in order to dial the number. As an exception to these laws against distracted driving, CDL holders may use a handheld mobile device in the event of an emergency. In this case, they may use a wireless device to contact a law enforcement official.
Distracted Driving Penalties in Alaska
While most distracted driving consequences in Alaska vary depending on the severity of the offense, many penalties result in criminal action and the payment of costly fines. For instance, the penalties of texting while driving may result in the conviction of a Class C felony if the offense causes minor physical harm to another person, or a Class B felony if the offense causes serious injury to another individual. If the offense results in the death of another individual, then motorists will be convicted of a Class A felony.
Cell phone use while driving in AK is a serious offense and any violation that causes the death or physical injury of another individual will include severe driver penalties. For instance, if convicted of a Class A felony for the first time, then motorists may need to pay a $250,000 fine and they may be subject to as many as 11 years in prison. However, motorists who are convicted for the second or third time within a 10-year period may be subject to as many as 20 years of imprisonment. If convicted of a Class B felony, then drivers may need to pay a $100,000 fine and they may be subject to up to 10 years in prison, depending on whether the offense is their first, second or third conviction. For drivers who commit a Class C felony, the fine is $50,000 and the prison sentence ranges between two and five years.
Furthermore, texting and driving penalties are just as severe if violators are commercial drivers. If commercial drivers violate any AK distracted driving law, then the state will disqualify their CDL credential after two or more offenses. The disqualification period is 60 days after the second offense within a three-year period and 120 days after the third offense. Additionally, CDL holders must pay a fine of up to $2,750 after the first and any subsequent offenses. Employers of CDL holders may also be subject to paying fines of up to $11,000.
Ways to Prevent Distracted Driving in Alaska
To prevent accidents related to cell phone distraction, motorists must put their handheld devices down and keep their eyes on the road. To reduce the temptation of reading or responding to a text or email message, motorists may:
- Store their handheld devices in a glovebox, trunk or another hidden location.
- Keep their phones on silent while operating a motor vehicle or turn the device off until they reach their destination.
- Mount their phone to their vehicle’s dashboard if they wish to use the mobile device as a GPS.
- Install smartphone apps that are meant to reduce driving distractions, including Live2Txt, Cellcontrol and Drivesafe Mode.
- Use speed dial if they need to make a phone call while driving.