On August 1, 2016, a new law titled "Inattentive Driving" or also known as "Distracted Driving" took effect in Reno, Nevada. This law states:
"No person while driving a motor vehicle may be engaged or occupied with an activity, other than driving the vehicle, that interferes or reasonably appears to interfere with the person's ability to drive the vehicle safely." Reno City Code Sec. 6.06.725
It is punishable with up to a fine of $305.00. The City of Reno states that this law is necessary because it will stop drivers from distracting behavior like grooming, eating, brushing their teeth while driving. Police warn that they will also be looking for any distracting behavior like pets in the vehicle and/or children as that can take away the drivers attention.
The DMV of Nevada states:
"There are three main types of distraction:
• Visual — taking your eyes off the road
• Manual — taking your hands off the wheel
• Cognitive — taking your mind off driving."
The DMV also states that "talking to passengers, changing the music station, using a PDA/navigation system" are all distracting activities.
This is a classic example of law with good intentions, but so horribly written that it is vague and unconstitutional. Let's start with the basics...how are we as society to know what is "distracting behavior?" For example, I am driving with my hands at 10 and 2 while listening to Siri guide me to my destination. Would it be inattentive driving because I am listening to directions? This law does not give us any guidance as to what is defined as distracted behavior.
This inattentive driving law allows police officers arbitrary discretion in how to enforce this law when picking and choosing who to pull over. Police just have to state "I pulled over the suspect because she was looking to the right of the vehicle and appeared to not be concentrating on driving." This gives police officers blanket probable cause to stop anyone and everyone.
Lastly, prosecution and defense of this new law will be problematic. How does a prosecutor prove that you were distracted? It will be the police officer's word against the driver. Police officer says you looked distracted, had your mouth open, and appeared to be talking. Your defense is that the officer was mistaken, you were not talking but focusing on the road. Without any concrete evidence (pictures, video), prosecution is going to have a hard time proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you were distracted. Conversely, defense will forced to argue against nebulous allegations. Here, maybe your mouth was open because you are a mouth breather or had a cold, not because you were talking.