A new California law in 2017 has banned the holding and operating of a cell phone while driving, but, if you glance around during your commute home, you'll find that it doesn't stop many Orange County drivers from continuing to pick up their phones while behind the wheel. In 2016, over 54% of California drivers said that they had either been hit or nearly hit by another driver who was texting or talking on a cell phone. Despite public advocacy campaigns, regulations, and the existence of impactful documentaries portraying the devastation caused by texting and driving, such as Werner Herzog's From One Second to the Next, many drivers still fail to take seriously the dangers of distracted driving.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Recently, cell phone usage has monopolized the public discourse on distracted driving because of its increasing prevalence. While distracted driving can include texting, Facebooking, Instagramming, and Snapchatting, it also comprises numerous other activities, such as:
- Having discussions with passengers
- Preening or putting on makeup
- Reaching down or behind you to grab something
- Taking selfies or photos
- Trying to get your kids to sit down, put on their seat belt, or stop fighting
- Looking at the scenery
Still, cell phone usage is often the most dangerous of these—especially texting—as it takes both your mind and your eyes off the road.
Effects of Distracted Driving
There are numerous consequences to distracted driving. Of course, driving while using your phone in Orange County can result in a $20 fine if it's your first offense. Additionally, your insurance rates are tied to your driving history, so if you receive traffic citations or points on your record, your premium will increase. You could also potentially lose your driving privileges. But none of these reasons are particularly motivating.
Instead, envision the lives you can save by keeping your eyes and mind on the road and your hands on the wheel. A single decision to pick up a buzzing phone or scroll through Facebook could lead to the injury or death of you, your friends or family members, or other innocent people on the road or sidewalk. The emotional toll of having injured or killed another person because of your actions would likely remain with you for life.
Steps You Can Take
If you're concerned about distracted driving, there are actions you can take to help decrease its incidence:
- Take steps to make your phone less attractive. Keep your ringer and vibration off while driving. Also, turn the face of your phone around, or place it out of reach. It can be distracting just hearing your phone buzz again and again or seeing it light up. By not being able to see it or hear it, you decrease your own desire to pick it up.
- Lead by example. Not only are your children watching, but so are your passengers and others on the road. Declining to take a call or grab your phone after a series of texts sends a message to those in and out of your car that their safety is more important.
- Pull over. Yes, it's frustrating to have to exit the road, especially when you want to get home or have somewhere to be, but if you have an important or urgent text, or you need to reroute your map, pull over. A few minutes' delay could save your life.
- Talk about it. Talk to your family and friends about the importance of not picking up your phone while driving. If a friend is texting while driving, ask her to please put the phone away or offer to text on her behalf. It may be slightly uncomfortable or awkward, but this option is far better than getting in a traumatic car accident.
- Advocate. Lobby your lawmakers for harsher penalties for distracted driving. As of now, in California, your first offense will only result in a $20 fine, which likely is not high enough to sufficiently inhibit the practice.
Contact Attorney Scott D. Hughes Today
Distracted driving is a serious issue. Around 40% of California drivers admit to having made a driving mistake while talking on their phone, and 3,154 people were killed by distracted drivers in 2013. If you have been in an accident that you suspect was caused by a distracted driver, contact an Orange County attorney experienced in car accident cases. The attorneys at the Law Office of Scott D. Hughes have years of experience representing individuals in car accident cases. If you were in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, contact the Law Offices of Scott D. Hughes today at 714-423-6930 for your free consultation.