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Distracted Driving Tops List of Dangers on California Roadways

Walnut Creek auto accident attorneyToday's drivers simply have too many options that can take their attention away from the road. Handheld devices such as cellphones, tablets and Ipods provoke drivers' temptation to engage in distracted behavior such as texting, taking pictures, video streaming and flipping through their favorite songs.

Even built-in infotainment systems pose a danger on California roadways, as drivers take their eyes off the road to program GPS navigation systems, order takeout through food-ordering apps or scan through satellite radio stations.

Danger all around us

This problem isn't confined to a small percentage of careless drivers. Even those who are typically responsible have succumb to the growing and dangerous habit of distracted driving. That's the conclusion from a 2017 annual Traffic Safety Culture Index study conducted by AAA.

Those who make or receive phone calls while driving were found to be four times more likely to cause a traffic accident. Additionally, those who text and drive are eight times more likely to cause a crash. Distracted driving may have been the leading culprit behind more than 37,000 fatal accidents that occurred on US roadways in 2016.

The study concludes that:

  • The number of drivers who reported making and receiving calls while driving has increased 46 percent since 2013.
  • Nearly half of drivers surveyed admitted to talking on cellphones while driving.
  • Roughly 35 percent of drivers surveyed admitted to texting while driving.
  • Around 58 percent of drivers believe that talking on a cellphone while driving puts others in danger.
  • Around 78 percent of drivers believe that texting while driving is a serious risk on the road.
  • Participants in the survey believe that distracted driving has increased over the past three years.
  • Half of those surveyed report seeing drivers around them texting and driving.

Federal estimates have found that distracted driving was a factor in 14 percent of all auto accidents. But the accuracy of these estimates are questionable, since distracted driving isn't always traceable. However, a 2015 AAA study using in-vehicle dash-cam videos to monitor teen drivers found that distracted driving was a factor in 58 percent of auto accidents.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that deaths caused by distracted driving accounted for around 10 percent (3,477) of all fatal accidents (35,092) in 2015. Additionally, injuries caused by distracted driving accounted for 16 percent (391,000) of all accidents (2,443,000) resulting in injuries.

The CDC also identified three types of distracted driving:

  • Visual: drivers who take their eyes off the road;
  • Manual: drivers who take their hands off the wheel; and
  • Cognitive: drivers who take their minds off of driving.

What can be done to prevent accidents caused by distracted driving?

In California, distracted driving is a primary offense. This means that law enforcement officers have the authority to stop and cite drivers for using hand-held devices while driving. An expansion of previous state law, AB 1784, prohibits drivers from even holding a cellphone, even if they don't intend to use it. This law applies to all motorists, transit workers and school bus drivers - with the exception of valid emergency or work-related purposes.

Drivers under the age of 18 are strictly prohibited from using cellphones or electronic devices of any kind while driving. This also includes hands-free devices, Bluetooth and speaker phones.

California law can only do so much. While police take measures to crack down on distracted driving, many offenders go under the radar - and the devastating consequences can be much worse than a citation.

It's up to California drivers to practice responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others. Many hand-held devices come with a "do not disturb" feature that you can activate while driving.

While adult motorists are allowed to use hands-free and Bluetooth devices while driving in California, such use should be done with caution. According to a recent study conducted by the National Safety Council (NSC), hands-free devices may not be as safe as you think.

Hands free not risk free
Provided by The National Safety Council

Preventing distracted driving accidents comes down to one solution - simply keeping your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. If you must make a phone call, program your GPS or send a text, it's best to find a place where you can safely pull over to do so. But even if you refrain from distracted driving, there is no guarantee that other drivers will do the same. If you see someone engaging in distracted behavior while driving, do your best to keep your distance from them.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a traffic accident caused by distracted driving, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. You'll need an experienced Walnut Creek auto accident attorney on your side. Contact Clancy & Diaz LLP today for a free, confidential case evaluation.

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