Consequences of Using a Cell Phone While Driving in CA
California, like every state, has restrictions on the use of cell phones while driving. State law recognizes the dangers of distracted driving, and cell phone use in particular. Texting while driving has become one of the leading causes of car crashes in California and across the country. Continue reading to learn about the dangers of distracted driving and the potential consequences for using a phone while driving in California. If you’ve been hurt in a distracted driving accident, call a dedicated Southern California auto accident lawyer for help with a personal injury claim in Los Angeles or Orange County.
Why Is Using a Cell Phone so Dangerous?
Cell phone use is a form of distracted driving. Driver distractions are measured by how they distracted the driver. Safety officials categorize distractions according to three metrics: manual, visual, and cognitive. Cognitive distractions take a driver’s mind off the task of driving. Visual distractions take the driver’s eyes off the road. Manual distractions take the driver’s hands off the wheel. Texting while driving (or browsing the internet, replying to social media posts, etc.) is so dangerous because it encompasses all three types of driver distraction: cognitive, manual, and visual.
Traffic safety experts estimate that it takes around five seconds on average to read and respond to a text message. If a car is traveling at 55 mph, a low estimate for most freeways, that means the driver’s mind, hands, and eyes are all doing something other than driving while their vehicle travels over 300 feet. That’s the same as driving the length of a football field while blindfolded.
People understand the dangers of cell phone use. In 2021, the California Office of Traffic Safety conducted a survey of Californians. Over 74 percent identified distracted driving as the biggest traffic safety concern on California roadways. In similar surveys, more than half of Californians report that their vehicles have been hit or nearly hit by a driver using their phone. At the same time, more than half of California drivers admit not only to using their phone while driving but also to making a driver error while using a phone.
Distracted Driving is a Leading Cause of Traffic Accidents
Drivers are right to be concerned about distracted driving, and texting while driving in particular: In 2019, 3,142 people were killed in distracted driving accidents, accounting for 8.7 percent of all traffic deaths. Between 2012 and 2019, over 26,000 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers.
Mobile devices remain one of the biggest distractions for drivers in California and across the country. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, texting while driving accounts for around 30,000 injury-causing accidents each year, and upwards of 50,000 accidents reported to the police.
Liability for a Distracted Driving Accident
California law prohibits manual use of any cell phone or other electronic device while driving; that means it’s illegal to text, browse the internet, read or comment on social media, or otherwise use your phone. Adult drivers are permitted to use a phone in a hands-free manner, such as via voice commands or a hands-free call. Drivers under 18 are prohibited from using a cell phone in any way, including hands-free. Drivers who violate the law are subject to a $20 fine for a first-time offense and $50 for each subsequent offense, although with all the court and administrative fees a driver is likely to pay closer to $250 per violation.
Using your phone while driving, in violation of the law, is strong evidence of negligence. Drivers who find themselves in a crash while using their phone are likely to be held at least partially, if not entirely, at fault for the accident. If serious injury or death occurs, they could face hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars in civil liability. If their conduct was especially reckless, they could face punitive damages or even criminal prosecution.
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If you or a loved one was seriously hurt or worse in a car accident in Los Angeles or Orange County, call Machtinger Law for advice and representation from a zealous, trial-ready Southern California traffic accident attorney.