April is observed as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. This year, it comes just two months before California Assembly Bill 47 takes effect. This new law will make distracted driving a more serious offense. Existing law provides an exemption for using a cell phone while driving if the device is designed to be used hands-free, for example, with a Bluetooth device. However, starting July 1, if a driver receives a second violation within 36 months for using a handheld cell phone or texting while driving, they will be fined, and it will add a point to their driver’s record.
As part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the first week of April is California Teen Safe Driving Week. Throughout this week, California Highway Patrol will place an increased emphasis on informing California’s newest and youngest drivers about the dangers and consequences of distracted driving. According to the state’s Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), in 2019 alone, in California, there were at least 18,698 crashes as a result of distracted driving that resulted in 108 deaths and more than 13,500 injuries.
Different Forms of Distracted Driving
There are three main types or forms of driving distractions:
- Visual: Examples of visual distractions while driving include looking at a GPS device, looking at an entertainment screen, turning to talk to a passenger or even looking at billboards along the roadway. When a driver takes his or her eyes off the road, even for a split second, they take their focus off the road. For example, stopping to look at a text or reading an email can take your eyes off the road for several seconds, which is enough for a driver to strike another vehicle or pedestrian.
- Manual: This type of distraction involves any type of activity where you take your hands off the wheel such as texting, eating, drinking, smoking, taking off a coat, shaving, applying makeup, etc. Without both hands on the wheel, your reaction time suffers as does your ability to steer the vehicle.
- Cognitive: This means you are taking your mind off the task of driving. These types of distractions may involve listening to a podcast or an audiobook, having a conversation using a hands-free device or even daydreaming. Note that these are all perfectly legal to do when you’re driving, but could still prove dangerous. If you are not completely focused and alert, you won’t be as safe.
If You Have Been Injured
If you or a loved one has been injured due to the actions of a distracted driver, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries, damages and losses. An experienced California car accident lawyer will be able to advise you regarding your legal rights and options.