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April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Texting while driving using cell phone in car

CHP to California motorists: "Open your eyes to the dangers of distracted driving"

Distracted driving is one of the most common causes of car accidents in the Bay Area and throughout California despite the state having a hands-free cell phone law for more than a decade.

Now, as part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the California Highway Patrol (CHP), California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), and Impact Teen Drivers (ITD) are partnering up to combat the problem.

Last year in California, about 6,300 distracted drivers were involved in crashes that resulted in injury while "at least" 56 distracted drivers were involved in fatal crashes. More than 55,800 citations were issued by CHP in 2021 for distracted driving, and according to statewide crash data, driver inattention contributed to over 13,000 crashes in California last year.

While there are many different forms of distraction (e.g., eating, drinking, chatting with a passenger, self-grooming, rubbernecking, etc.), the CHP notes cell phone use is still the biggest problem on the state's roads and highways.

“Nothing on your phone is worth endangering a life when you drive,” said CHP Commissioner Amanda Ray. “Your primary focus should always be on the road and the task of driving your vehicle safely.”

A deadly problem throughout the nation

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 3,000 people in the U.S. died in car accidents involving a distracted driver in 2019, the most recent year with national crash data available. Altogether, over 420,000 people suffered injuries in crashes with distracted drivers in 2019.

That same year in California, 122 people died in fatal crashes involving distracted drivers, as it continues to be one of the leading causes of car accidents in the state and across the nation.

Someone who isn't fully paying attention to their driving can cause any type of motor vehicle accident, but since distracted driving causes a person to have slower reaction times and negatively impacts their judgment, the most common types of crashes involving distracted drivers are rear-end accidents, head-on collisions, high-speed crashes, and multiple vehicle accidents.

California's hands-free law

Studies have shown that texting while driving is at least as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. That's because to read or send a text, a driver must take at least one hand off the wheel to pick up their phone (manual distraction), take their eyes off the road to look at the device's screen (visual distraction), and then think about what they are reading or typing (cognitive distraction).

And while some drivers may incorrectly think they can multi-task while driving, reading or sending one text message when you're operating a motor vehicle is comparable to driving blindfolded. That's just one reason why states like California have banned the hand-held use of cell phones for drivers.

Under California law (Section 23123), drivers are prohibited from talking or texting on cell phones while operating on public roads, unless the phone is connected to a hands-free device or a driver needs to use their phone due to an emergency situation (e.g., calling law enforcement, the fire department, or some other emergency services agency).

Along with endangering the lives of themselves, their passengers, other motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists, drivers who are caught violating California's hands-free law can be fined $20 for a first offense and $50 for all subsequent offenses.

“Silence your phone and put it away while driving,” OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. “It is a simple, yet significant action that keeps yourself and others on the road safe.”

Talk to a car accident lawyer if you were hit by a distracted driver

If you were injured or a loved one died in a Bay Area crash caused by someone else—whether you know the at-fault driver was distracted or not—you have the right to seek compensation for your losses (e.g., medical bills, lost income, property damage, pain and suffering, etc.).

The problem is insurance companies are notorious for treating good people unfairly, all in the name of protecting their bottom line. As such, it's common for insurance adjusters to purposefully delay, downplay, or flat-out deny valid injury claims.

That's not right. That's why at Clancy & Diaz, LLP, our Walnut Creek car accident attorneys take care of everything while our clients take the time they need to recover and heal. You shouldn't have to worry about going back and forth with an insurance company when you're injured, in pain, and trying to find your way forward. That's our job, and our primary goal is to see your case through until we achieve the results you need and deserve.

Let us handle every aspect of your claim and fight for the compensation you're entitled to. To learn more about your legal rights and options, contact us today for a free consultation. We serve clients in Walnut Creek, Antioch, and throughout the Bay Area.

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