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Texting Drivers Get Off Easy in California

Lawmakers in California Looking to Ban All Phone Use While Driving

Drivers in California are able to get away with texting and driving because of weak penalties, according to an NBC news report. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about nine people die and more than 1,000 are injured in crashes that involve distracted drivers many of whom are suspected of using their cell phones at the time. Safety advocates say the number of deaths and injuries involving cell phones is much higher because most drivers will not admit they were using their phones before a crash.

Weak Penalties for Distracted Driving

Despite those facts and statistics, the number of citations issued for cell phone-related offenses in California has dropped in recent years – from 476,105 in 2011 to 269,230 in 2015, according to statistics from the Office of Traffic Safety. Under California law, it is illegal to hold your phone up to talk, text or engage in any other online activity with your device while driving.

Law enforcement officials say distracted driving is such a huge problem that occasional “stings” and crackdowns won’t solve the problem. Former state Senator Joe Simitian, who authored the state’s first cell phone driving laws believes weak penalties are to blame for drivers defying the rules. The penalties are really not that intimidating. For example, a first-time cell phone offense only gets a $20 fine. Compare that to a solo driver caught using the carpool lane who is slapped with a $491 fine.

What Can You Do?

There are several steps you can take in order to prevent driving while distracted by electronic devices:

  • Think about what calls you need to make or texts you need to send before you begin your trip.
  • If you have a passenger, use him or her as a “designated texter” just as you might use a designated driver if you’ve been drinking.
  • The saying “Out of sight, out of mind” applies to phones and driving. Put your phone away where you won’t be tempted to look at it. You could put it in the glove compartment or in the back seat.
  • Put your phone on silent so you don’t get tempting notifications.
  • Use apps that will block incoming messages and send automatic responses to let your friends know you are driving.

If a distracted driver has injured you, you may be able to receive compensation for your losses. Contact an experienced California car accident lawyer who will be able to help you better understand your legal rights and options.

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California Personal Injury Blog