You’ve seen it before, and maybe even done it yourself: texting, watching videos on the phone, or even taking selfies — all while driving.
But make no mistake. Distracted driving is dangerous and causes accidents, injuries and fatalities on our roads.
Preliminary 2017 data shows nearly 22,000 drivers were involved in distracted driving collisions in California, according to Office of Traffic Safety. Another 6,000 pedestrians were killed, with distracted driving as a main cause.
If that doesn’t startle you enough, perhaps this will: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that driving a vehicle while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.
Drivers: It’s time to stop distracting yourself while driving, put does your phone, and focus on the road.
April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month aimed to change the behavior of drivers and eliminating distractions behind the wheel. In addition, the week of April 2-8 is California Teen Safe Driving Week.
Locally, several agencies have teamed up in an enforcement and awareness campaign regarding distracted driving, including California Highway Patrol, AAA, California Office of Traffic Safety, Bakersfield Police Department and the Kern County Sheriff’s Department. Officers will have a special emphasis this month on enforcing all cell phone and distracted driving laws. The goal is to increase voluntary compliance by drivers, but officers say sometimes citations are necessary for motorists to better understand the importance of driving distraction
Bakersfield Police Department is deploying extra traffic officers with grant-funded resources throughout the month of April in city locations with higher numbers of traffic collisions. Violators will be stopped and cited with fines set at $162 for first time offenders.
You may also see distracted driving messages on the changeable message signs on our freeways during April, courtesy of Office of Traffic Safety. That department’s new campaign, “Just Drive,” reminds drivers to put down their phones and focus on the road.
“Using smart phones for texting, phone calls, and posting on social media has become part of everyone’s lives now,” Bakersfield Police Department Chief Lyle Martin said in a statement. “But doing these things can have deadly consequences while driving on our city’s street. Changing these dangerous habits will help make our roadways safer for everyone.”
Ten years ago, California introduced the hands-free law that made using a cell phone without a hands-free device illegal. Still, distracted driving today remains a serious safety challenge in California.
Recently passed laws also make it illegal to use a smartphone’s apps will driving. And Senate Bill 1030, heard recently by the Senate Transportation Committee, makes distracted driving a moving violation and will add a point to the driver’s record. Lawmakers argue that enforcement and an increase in penalties will lead to positive results. Fourteen other states add a point to a driver’s record for distracted driving.
In fact, current laws already seem to be working. While 2017 saw 22,000 drivers involved in distracted driving collisions in California, that’s also a decline from the more than 33,000 drivers involved in distracted driving collisions in 2007, the last full year before the hands-free law went into effect, according to The Sacramento Bee.
In 2017, 50,000 citations were issued to California drivers for using their phones, according to The Bee.
To help you, Bakersfield Police Department has provided some tips regarding the use of cell phones and driving:
- If you receive a text message or need to send one, pull over and park your car in a safe location, but never on a freeway. Once you are safely off the road, it is safe to text.
- Designate your passenger as your “designated texter.” Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages.
- Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving.
- Cell phone use can be habit-forming. To help, put the cell phone in the trunk or back seat of your vehicle until you arrive at your final destination.
Safe driving to all of you out there on the roadways. Please share the road, put down the phone, and just drive.
If you or someone you know is involved in a motor vehicle accident due to the fault of the distracted driver, please call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.