Distracted driving in California: Statistics, laws & remedies for victims

Distractions account for 80 percent of accidents. Those who are victims of these accidents may be eligible for compensation through a personal injury suit.

The dangers of distracted driving are not new. Distractions have plagued drivers since the automobile was first invented. Drivers' years ago were distracted by many of the same issues that drivers face today. Conversations with other passengers and sneaking in a quick bite to eat are common examples.

Although many of the distractions are the same, technological advances have resulted in additional distractions that pose a greater level of risk compared to these original issues.

Why are these distractions more dangerous?

In order to understand the dangers posed with distracted driving, it is important to know how these distractions work. There are many forms of distracted driving. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) breaks distraction down into three main types:

  • Visual. This form is pretty self explanatory. Anything that requires a driver to take his or her eyes of the road is a distraction.
  • Manual. A second form of distraction involves the physical. This includes any activity that leads the driver to remove one or both hands from the steering wheel.
  • Cognitive. It is also important that drivers are mentally present while driving. A failure to focus on the task at hand can increase the risk of an accident.

A driver can become distracted by any one of these types, or a combination. Examples like talking to other passengers in the vehicle or changing the radio station can increase the risk of an accident. However, these two examples generally include only one form of distraction. A more dangerous example involves the driver attempting to use his or her smartphone while driving. This is more dangerous because using a smartphone often results in all three types of distraction.

How big of a problem is distracted driving?

Distracted driving is a big problem. The California Office of Traffic Safety reports that 80 percent of all automobile accidents involve distraction. These accidents result in approximately 3,000 deaths annually.

One statistic that has become commonly cited is the fact that when a driver traveling at 55 mph looks down at a phone for 5 seconds the car travels the length of a football field. It takes the average person 4.6 seconds to send or read a text. To put this into perspective, most dangers that led to accidents give drivers only 2 seconds to respond. In these situations, a distracted driver would not even be aware of the danger before getting into a car crash.

Isn't it against the law to drive and use a smartphone?

Many states have passed laws restricting the ability to use smartphones while driving. California is no exception. It is illegal in the state to send text messages while driving. A first infraction results in a citation that comes with a minimum fine of $162. It is also generally illegal to talk on a hand held cellphone.

Additional laws are up for consideration. A recent article in The Sacramento Bee notes that Assembly Bill 1785 would set out to limit the types of actions that could be taken on phones while driving. It would require the phone be mounted and that the driver only complete simple actions, like a single swipe or tap. This is basically designed to allow drivers to continue to use navigational devices.

What about victims of distracted driving accidents?

Unfortunately, even with these laws in place to reduce the risk of accidents, distracted driving crashes still happen. Those who are injured in an accident and believe the crash was the result of distraction by the other driver have options. One such option is to seek compensation through a civil suit.

A personal injury lawsuit can result in a monetary award. This can lead to funds to help cover the costs associated with the accident. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your options.