Texting and Driving: A Dangerous Distraction for California Drivers

driver texts while driving on road

The popularity of mobile phones in recent years has created a big problem for public safety on California roads. Texting while driving is the cause of thousands of injuries and deaths in the US every year.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles reports that there are three types of distracted driving:

  • Distractions that take your eyes off the road (texting).
  • Distractions that take your mind off the road (talking on the phone).
  • Distractions that keep your hands off the steering wheel (helping a child, eating, putting on makeup).

The California DMV cited a study released by NHTSA claiming that driver distractions are the leading cause of most vehicle crashes and near-crashes. 80% of crashes and 65% of near-crashes involve some form of driver distraction.

The U.S. Dept. of Transportation has found that texting while driving creates a crash risk 23 times higher than those driving with full attention to the road and that five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road when you are texting. Try this for yourself. Close your eyes for five full seconds and imagine driving with your eyes closed for that time.  Texting and driving is the same as driving with your eyes completely closed.

California State Laws

A California law against driving while texting went into effect as of 2009. This applies to all forms of text-based communication, including e-mail and instant messaging.  The state law now allows adults to use hands-free texting and voice-activated devices found on car dashboards, but teens under 18 cannot use a device of any kind while driving — even if it is voice-activated. (California Vehicle Code Section 23123).

These laws are in place for good reason, given the severity of distracted driving statistics. A 2013 California Office of Traffic Safety survey shows that nearly 70% of California drivers surveyed said they had been hit or nearly hit by a driver who was talking or texting on a cell phone.

Sacramento Texting and Driving Accident

On August 28, 2013, a Sacramento jury awarded $680,000 to a woman seriously injured in a car collision caused by a driver allegedly distracted by a text message (California Superior Court, County of Sacramento, Amy Caldwell v. Ashleigh Hughes, et al. 34-2009-00064793). According to court documents, the driver’s insurance company attempted to settle for $300,000. However, based on the evidence presented at trial, the jury ultimately awarded the plaintiff a verdict of $680,000 plus $77,000 in past wage loss and $316,000 in future damages. Including costs such as medical expenses and interest, the total awarded to the plaintiff was approximately $930,000.

Texting and driving also caused a triple fatal accident in Davis, CA in July of 2012. The California Highway Patrol reported that the driver of a large van transporting patients with cerebral palsy drifted into oncoming traffic because he was texting while driving. The passengers who weren’t killed were severely injured.

Yolo County Police Keeping Eyes on the Road

Unfortunately, drivers of emergency vehicles are just as susceptible to distracted driving accidents, due to an increase in the vehicles’ electronic equipment. The L.A. Times reports that patrol cars, ambulances and fire trucks were involved in collisions that injured about 140 people in California over the past two years. The Yolo County Sheriff’s Department is among the local agencies who are in the process of testing software that shuts down functions of their patrol car computers once their vehicles exceed 15 miles an hour.

You Have Recourse If Injured in a Distracted Driving Accident

These types of accidents can and should be prevented. Nevertheless, accidents do happen that can cause substantial loss and injury. If you have been injured in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, you can seek compensation for medical expenses, loss of wages, and need for future surgery and medical treatment. We have a proven record of success in representing victims of reckless driving. Contact us today for your free case evaluation.

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