Young drivers taking self-portraits with camera phones —“selfies”—are putting themselves and other motorists at risk of auto accidents.
The American Automobile Association has expressed concerns about the new form of distracted driving. AAA says the trend is reflected in the number of Twitter and Instagram searches that turn up hashtags such as #drivingselfie, #drivingfast, #drivingtowork and even #drivingintherain, CBS.DFW.com reports. The images prove that these self-photo-snappers, most of them young, are not paying attention to the road and the traffic around them.
California drivers rank cellphone talking and texting among the worst safety problems, and 80 percent call those activities “the most serious distraction on the road,” according to the 2012 Statewide Traffic Safety Survey.
Yet, a statewide observational survey in 2012 showed that 7.4 percent of motorists were talking on their cellphones at any given time of day. That was the case even though drivers can be ticketed for talking or texting on cellphones in the state. The minimum ticket is $159 for cellphone use.
Even more telling, 60 percent of the drivers surveyed said they had been hit or nearly hit by a motorist talking or texting, and nearly 45 percent admitted they had made driving errors while using their cellphones.
Orange County’s roads are dangerous enough without distracted drivers adding to the problem. In 2012, 149 people died in crashes in Orange County, an increase from 140 the previous year and a decline from 163 in 2008.
A driving distraction can be anything that takes a motorist’s focus off the task of operating the vehicle. That includes not only texting and taking selfies but eating, grooming and adjusting the radio. The National Safety Council believes that even the use of hands-free devices built into the dashboards of new cars can distract drivers from the road.
Taking selfies and uploading them to the web while driving poses a cognitive distraction, a manual distraction and a visual distraction. Drivers snapping and posting selfies take their eyes off the road, their hands off the steering wheel and their minds off the task at hand.
Some drivers in Orange County are aware of the dangers of distracted driving but take the risk anyway.
As CBS.DFW.com points out, a car running 60 mph can travel 176 feet in the two seconds it takes to snap a selfie. It can cover the length of nearly two football fields in the time it takes to record a six-second video.
California has laws on the books to prohibit drivers from using cellphones. Young drivers who cannot resist the urge to take photos of themselves behind the wheel face fines – or worse, injury or death —from a car accident.
Distracted drivers who cause preventable auto accidents through their reckless actions and disregard for traffic safety can and should be held accountable for the personal injuries they cause in Orange County.
Keep in mind that a selfie taken at the time of a car accident and postings on social media can be used as evidence that a driver wasn’t paying attention as they should have been and caused a preventable accident.
Scott Hughes is a personal injury attorney in Orange County, California.