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Recent Surveys Show Disturbing Increase in Distracted Driving

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Newly released studies are showing that distracted driving has jumped significantly in the past year. According to a news report in The Orange County Register, the increase comes as law enforcement agencies face additional challenges in catching violators. An hour-long survey conducted by a high school student at a busy Garden Grove intersection during morning rush hour showed drivers fumbling with their cell phones or eating breakfast as they drove – or worse – doing both at the same time.

What the Studies Are Finding

A study released this month by the California Office of Traffic Safety showed that 7.6 percent of all drivers observed in the traffic safety study engaged in some type of distracted driving by way of electronic device. This number is up from 5.4 percent a year ago. Officials said they expected the increase this year because motorists are logging more miles and smartphone features are quickly evolving. The state study also found that handheld cell phones were most commonly observed in Southern California compared to other parts of the state.

Among teen and young drivers, 6.5 percent were seen manipulating their handheld devices, up from 3.5 percent a year ago. However, enforcement has not kept pace with the violations. In 2015, CHP officers issued about 6,800 tickets for cell phone violations in Orange County, a 40 percent drop compared with 2012. Officials say handing out these tickets is tricky because while courts have outlawed holding a phone to your ear, it’s still fine to use GPS navigation devices while driving. Also, those who text while driving have gotten stealthy and more skillful, officers say.

Preventing Distracted Driving

The dangers of distracted driving remain. Nationwide in 2013, more than 3,100 people died in crashes involving distracted drivers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drivers talking on mobile phones are four times more likely to crash, according to the National Safety Council. Drivers who are texting are 23 times more likely to crash.

Here are a few steps all of us can take to prevent distracted driving:

• Use your cell phone only for emergency situations. Even when it’s an emergency, pull over safely to the right shoulder.
• Do not use hands-free devices when you are driving. Research has shown that even these devices could be enough to distract drivers.
• If you are drowsy or exhausted, get off the road.
• Limit the number of passengers in your car. This is particularly true for teens who tend to get most distracted by passengers.
• Avoid other activities such as eating, drinking, grooming or applying makeup while driving.
Remember, anything that takes your hands off the wheel, eyes off the road or attention away from the act of driving is distracted driving. You could be held financially responsible for a crash you cause while distracted. If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver, please contact an experienced Orange County car accident lawyer to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.

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