Legal Distractions On The Roads Every Day

By  | 

RENO, NV.-- Using your cell phone while driving has been against the law for more than a year, but using a cell phone isn't the only distraction drivers come in contact with on a day-to-day basis.

More than 12,000 tickets have been issued to drivers who don't abide the new cell phone law.

"There are all sorts of distractions out there, the more a person is distracted the higher probability of getting into a crash," says Trooper Chuck Allen with Nevada Highway Patrol.

You've probably seen these distractions at stoplights or even done some of them yourself.

Some common distractions we saw on the streets in Reno include: sipping on morning coffee, grabbing something out of the backseat, or even driving with your pet.

All of these distractions are perfectly legal, but not always safe.

"It's generally not the distraction itself that got them into trouble, but the traffic violation of not using a turn signal that got them pulled over," says Trooper Allen.

We hit the streets to find out what distractions you see the most or have left you scratching your head.

"I saw a woman curling her hair," says Edwin Starbuck.

"Texting and eating," says Angelica Pretick.

"Putting on make-up, eating their food, and texting," says Jeff Fluckiger.

Another common distraction behind the wheel is smoking.

One local man's smoking habits while driving are hard to miss.

"People smoke cigarettes while they drive all the time, why not use a device to make that happen," says Chris Crevling.

Crevling smokes hookah while he drives. A hookah is a water pipe. Smokers put sheesha, also known as flavored tobacco, in a bowl, and then they put a heated coal on top of the tobacco.

It's perfectly legal and has gained popularity here in the U.S., taking up tables inside bars restaurants.

Crevling explains just how it fits in his car. "There's a foil cone on top of the hookah that keeps the coal from bouncing around and jostling and falling off and potentially burning someone or burning the car."

He puts his hookah in the backseat while he drives, and is the first to admit, distracted driving is extremely dangerous.

"You don't want to be to distracted while driving and it makes sense and as long as you're smart about it, you don't have to worry so much," says Crevling.

Crevling says he's been pulled over by law enforcement twice, and it's ended the same way.

"They were just like, that is interesting I've never seen someone with a hookah fired up in their car just enjoying it while they drive. I was like it's relaxing and it keeps me focused and the officers were like okay, you have a nice day and let me drive off," says Crevling.

Crevling says he'll continue to smoke hookah behind the wheel, but won't even think about grabbing his cell phone.

"When your texting on a cell phone, you're usually staring at the device and even when you have it up here. When you're texting, it becomes a chore, its right in your way," says Crevling.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2011, more than 3,000 people lost their lives in car accidents caused by distracted driving nationwide and more than half a million people were injured.

These numbers lead to other driver's feeling scared on the roads.

"I'm scared they might hit me," says Pretick.

"I see a lot of people talking on their phone without a hands-free device and they swerve in my lane, and it's nerve-wracking," says Starbuck.

Law enforcement will continue to issue tickets for texting, e-mailing or talking on a cell phone. This, however, is the only distracted item that will get you pulled over.

'If you're touching the phone, you're breaking the law," says Trooper Allen.

But he adds, any distraction that causes you to swerve, or make a reckless movement could get your pulled over.

Trooper Allen says it all comes down to common sense.

"I think if every individual driver knows doing anything but holding the steering wheel can distract you," says Trooper Allen.

He adds, a hamburger or coffee is not worth your life or someone elses.

Just to clarify Nevada law, law enforcement and emergency vehicles are exempt from the distracted driving law. If you see an officer using his or her phone, that's legal.