Distracted driving in Montana is a significant cause of auto accidents among motorists. In many cases, these driving distractions cause property damage, bodily injuries and even traffic-related fatalities.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), at any given time, there are 481,000 motorists who are using their cell phones or other types of handheld electronic devices while operating a vehicle. As such, cell phone use while driving is responsible for several accidents in MT.

Texting while driving is particularly common among younger and more inexperienced motorists. However, traffic laws tend to differ somewhat between states, imposing different penalties for texting and driving. To learn more about the distracted driving laws in Montana, continue reading below.

What is distracted driving in Montana?

Distracted driving takes place when a motorist is simultaneously engaged in some activity or behavior while operating a vehicle, rather than placing his or her full attention on driving. Texting and driving is one major example of a traffic-related distraction that has significantly increased along with the rapid adoption of smartphones and wireless technology devices in the United States.

According to recent studies, the number and frequency of auto accidents related to distractions continue to rise along with the increasing usage of mobile devices inside vehicles. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies driving distractions into the following categories:

  • Visual – Visual distractions are those that draw a driver’s eyes away from focusing on the road. Common examples of these types of distractions include texting while driving, adjusting the music player and searching for misplaced items in your car, to name a few.
  • Manual – Manual distractions encompass all activities that cause you to physically take your hands off the steering wheel of your car. For instance, actions such as eating, smoking, brushing your hair, putting on makeup or trying to pick up something inside your car are all common examples of manual distractions.
  • Cognitive – Driving while distracted includes factors that take your attention off of actually driving, such as having a conversation or an argument with a passenger.

In comparison to other common distractions, there are generally more serious consequences for texting while driving, because that particular behavior incorporates elements of all three of the CDC’s distraction categories. Some of the other common distracted activities include the following:

  • Reaching for your phone or another item
  • Eating or drinking
  • Chatting with passengers
  • Grooming activities such as shaving, applying makeup or combing hair
  • Reading
  • Tending to a child in the backseat
  • Using a smartphone app
  • Using the radio, CD player or MP3 player
  • Taking a photo or recording a video

Distracted Driving Laws in Montana for Handheld Devices

Currently, there are no laws against distracted driving in Montana that enforce statewide bans for these devices. Despite the rising number of accidents due to driving distractions, MT has not yet passed a major piece of legislation that would punish these various forms of dangerous behaviors behind the wheel.

Instead, this is one of the few states where cell phone use while driving is technically not illegal, allowing activities such as texting or talking over the phone while operating a motor vehicle.

While distracted driving laws are not enacted statewide, certain cities and municipalities have passed laws banning these activities. Cities in Montana that have such laws include Bozeman, Butte, Helena, Whitefish, Billings and Missoula.

Montana Laws on Distracted Driving for Novice Drivers

In Montana, there are no laws on distracted driving that are particularly designed for novice drivers. Therefore, young and/or inexperienced motorists have the same leniency as experienced licensed drivers in regards to distracted driving laws.

Texting and Driving Laws in Missouri

Presently, there are no statewide texting and driving laws in Montana. However, certain cities in the state have established their own regulations concerning driving distractions. For example, some of the cities that prohibit texting while driving are Bozeman, Butte, Helena, Whitefish, Billings and Missoula.

Montana Distracted Drivers Regulations for CDL Holders

All professional motorists who hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL) are banned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) from cell phone use while driving. Thus, despite the fact that Montana has no statewide distracted driving laws, CDL motorists must obey federal regulations concerning these behaviors.

Distracted Driving Penalties in Montana

Distracted driving fines do not exist on a statewide level, because Montana has not established laws regarding driving distractions. On the other hand, certain municipalities within the state enforce such laws and have set their own penalties for motorists who violate them.

Ways to Prevent Distracting Driving in Montana

There are many different methods to prevent distracted driving accidents, all of which discourage the types of behaviors that lead to crashes, fatalities, injuries and property damage. Tips that can decrease the chances of being involved in an accident from distracted driving include the following:

  • Distracted driving usually stems from motorists trying to multi-task while operating a moving motor vehicle. Therefore, engaging in activities such as placing a phone call, changing music on the stereo or exchanging text messages can contribute to dangerous driving practices.
  • According to studies, driving while fatigued makes you four times more likely to have an accident. As such, it is always best to pull over and rest rather than continue to drive and risk having an accident.
  • Limiting the number of passengers in your vehicle is an effective way to reduce potential driving distractions that may lead to accidents. That is because having several passengers in your vehicle means that more conversations and/or activities are likely to take place. Overall, transporting a high number of friends and/or relatives may yield interactions that take your attention away from operating a car.
  • As a general rule, cell phone use while driving must be reserved for emergencies. Moreover, these phone calls must only be placed after a motorist has safely pulled to the side of the road and made sure that the vehicle was completely stopped. Thus, avoid using your mobile device for casual conversations with friends or family.
  • Eating or drinking behind the wheel may increase your risks of being involved in distracted driving accidents. That is because taking your hands off the wheel in order to eat will only contribute to your distraction inside a car.
Last updated on Wednesday, October 14 2020.