California, like many other states, has recognized the great dangers inherent in “distracted driving.” Annually, distracted driving accounts for 6,000 fatalities nationwide. Texting, in particular, takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds, and most auto accidents happen with less than 3 seconds of reaction time, according to California’s Office of Traffic Safety. What’s even scarier is that according to a recent survey, drivers spend more than half of their time focused on tasks other than driving.
With rapidly changing technologies and lawmakers who do not always understand the capability of cell phones, it can be difficult to understand what is and is not permissible when it comes to smartphone usage while driving. Even if specific aspects of the laws against distracted driving are not yet settled, there is no doubt that both the physical distraction of taking one’s eyes off the road and the mental distraction of diverting one’s brain’s attention to phone and text conversations are dangerous. If you or a loved one has been injured in a Woodland Hills auto accident that was the result of texting and driving, contact an experienced accident attorney.
California laws on smartphone use while driving
California law first banned cell phone use in cars in 2006, permitting drivers to speak on the phone only if they were using a hands-free or bluetooth device. In 2008, California banned texting while driving. More recently, lawmakers clarified that hands-free texting is legal, but turning on your phone to do so is illegal. The solution, lawmakers noted, is to text using dictation with voice-activated programs. Therefore, in California, texting, reading or sending email, surfing the web, programming a phone GPS, or texting in traffic or while stuck at a red light are illegal behaviors. Drivers may, however, type directions into a GPS device that is separate from a phone; read directions from a map or GPS while driving; or read texts or emails while parked. Drivers under age 18 are prohibited from using a wireless device even if it is equipped with a hands-free feature, except for emergencies. Policy makers are currently debating whether making features such as calling and texting “hands free” encourages more of this potentially distracted behavior.
Fines for texting and driving in California
Even with these laws in place, thousands, if not millions of Californians still use their cell phones to call or text while driving, they just do so more furtively. Studies have shown that the number of accidents in California’s roadways have not changed significantly following these laws. Drivers caught using a hand-held device while driving are subject to a $20 fine for their first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses.
If you are involved in a Woodland Hills auto accident where one or more drivers was texting or talking on the phone, you’ll want to note that observation for police and the insurance company. The policy and the insurance company will look for other evidence, such as cell phone records, to support this testimony.
For more information on auto accident injuries caused by texting and driving, contact experienced personal injury lawyer Barry P. Goldberg today.