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The Dangers of Distracted Driving

The Dangers of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic gaining momentum on America’s roadways. Over 55,800 citations were issued for distracted driving by the California Highway Patrol (CPH) in 2021. In the same year, over 13,000 collisions were reported in California due to driver inattention, according to preliminary data from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System. According to National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, well over 3,000 people died from distracted driving in 2020, and nearly 400,000 were injured in wrecks involving distracted drivers. According to NHTSA, distraction-related crashes accounted for 8.1 percent of fatal crashes, 14 percent of injury crashes, and 13 percent of all collisions reported to the police.

Distracted Driving: What is it?

When operating any vehicle, attention should be on driving and focusing on the road. Distracted driving is when a driver breaks their gaze from the street and attempts to perform a non-driving-related action.

Many activities qualify as a form of distracted driving, but most often, it refers to the act of driving while using a cell phone or smartphone. Using a smartphone while in control of a motor vehicle can include but is not limited to the following:

  • Talking on the phone
  • Typing, sending, or reading text messages
  • Checking your email accounts
  • Changing a song on a music streaming app
  • Searching for a podcast episode
  • Using social media

The California Vehicle Code, Section 23123, prohibits using a wireless telephone while driving except when it is specifically designed to adapt to hands-free mode. However, distracted driving goes well beyond phone use. A driver’s distraction can also be eating, drinking, talking to passengers, surfing radio channels, putting on makeup on the drive to work, or looking at something (other than the roadway) while driving. When driving, it is imperative to avoid cognitive, manual, and visual distractions. A second or two of inattention can equate to vehicle damage, severe injuries, and even death. According to the NHTSA, it takes an average of five seconds to read or type text, which is enough time for an accident or fatality.

The Costs of Distracted Driving

Research conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that engaging with cell phones while driving (a glance or typing) increases the chance of a crash by more than double compared to drivers who refrain from phone use. In addition, there are approximately ten distracted driving accident deaths daily in America.

The penalties and consequences of distracted driving can be severe. In California, using a handheld cell phone while driving is illegal. Offenders can be fined up to a minimum of $162 for a first offense, according to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), and subsequent offenses generate higher fines per offense. If distracted driving results in an accident, the at-fault individual can be charged with a misdemeanor offense, face up to a year in jail, and steep fines of up to $1000. Under California Vehicle Code 12810.3, points can amount to one’s driving license for committing acts of distracted driving. Distracted driving convictions twice within 36 months will result in points being assessed against a motorist’s driving record. A person convicted of the law twice within three years will receive a violation point. Unless they use a hands-free device, drivers are not allowed to text or talk while driving under this law.

Note: Using a phone to contact emergency services is not a violation of the law.

Following an Accident Involving Distracted Driving

If you’ve been in a car accident in California, there are a few things you should do immediately following the accident:

  • Check yourself and your passengers for injuries and call 911 if necessary.
  • Always contact the police to ensure the accident will be documented accurately and adequately and generate an official police report.
  • Your vehicle should be moved to the shoulder or another safe zone near you and your hazard lights should be turned on. Place yourself and any passengers in a safe location as well.
  • Exchange information with the other driver, including insurance information.
  • When able, take photos of the accident’s scene and damage to all vehicles involved.
  • You can also talk with witnesses and collect their recollections and other information that sticks out to them from the moments leading to and during the accident. They may be able to reinforce your stance on the accident.

When to Consult an Attorney

A California distracted driving accident may leave you or a loved one wondering if you need to hire an attorney. There are multiple elements to consider, such as who is at fault, whether there is a partially at-fault party, and examining the evidence, injuries, and any additional damages.

  • Should an injury result from the accident, a proficient attorney will help you navigate the complexities of the legal system, apply knowledge to your case of all applicable California regulations, and work diligently to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
  • In the event the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, a skilled attorney can help you recover damages from your own insurance company.
  • Should the at-fault driver face criminal charges, an experienced attorney can help protect your rights and ensure justice is served.
  • If you have difficulty dealing with the insurance company during the claims process, a California car accident lawyer can help you negotiate a fair settlement.
  • Alternatively, seeking an attorney’s advisement is all the more urgent as a potentially liable, at-fault, or partially at-fault party.
  • If you are unsure of your legal rights, a seasoned California attorney can guide you, review the details of the accident, and answer any questions you may have. 

California’s car accident attorneys at Castillo & Associates are available to speak with you about your legal rights and potential options if you have been injured in a car crash. To schedule a free consultation, call 800-497-9774. We have recovered over $300 million dollars in compensation for our clients to date. We can help you determine your options and guide you further in each step of the process. Our experienced attorneys at Castillo & Associates can help you gather any evidence you may need to get the maximum benefits for your injury.

At Castillo & Associates, we have offices conveniently located throughout Southern California in Los Angeles County, Inland Empire, Coachella Valley, and the San Diego area of Mission Valley. We are Bilingual Attorneys and have over 33 years of combined experience in Workers Compensation Claims & Workers Compensation Law as well as Personal Injury Law.15

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