Just Drive: Campaign reminds drivers to put down their phones and focus on the road

April 4, 2018 | 10:22 am


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.

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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.

Hands on the wheel: We can all do our part to end distracted driving

April 5, 2017 | 9:41 am


Plain and simple, distracted driving is a deadly behavior. In fact, federal estimates suggest that distraction contributes to 16 percent of all fatal crashes, leading to around 5,000 deaths every year.

It’s no wonder that 80 percent of drivers cite distraction as a serious problem and a behavior that makes them feel less safe on the road, according to AAA Foundation.

The good news is we can all make a difference — a drivers’ safety ultimately rests in their hands and those of their fellow motorists. And this month, during Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to call on everyone to drive distraction-free, and speak up if you’re in a vehicle with a distracted driver.

“You cannot drive safely unless you’re paying full attention to the road, and on the other vehicles around you,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “We can all play a part in the fight to save lives and prevent injuries by ending distracted driving, keeping our hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.”

Here’s what you can do to eliminate distracted driving from your travels (courtesy of AARP).

  • Unplug: Keep your cell phone on silent and where you can’t see it light up for every notification you receive. If a phone call or text message is really important, it’s best to pull over into a safe location before using your phone.
  • Refuel: Drowsy driving is distracted driving, so never drive when you’re too tired.
  • Focus: When you’re behind the wheel, pay attention to what’s happening all around your vehicle. Frequently scan your mirrors and watch your speed.
  • Secure your cargo: Prevent loose items in your car from startling you in the event of sudden braking by securing your cargo. Also, never place smaller items on your lap or on the floor near the driver-side foot pedals.

Here in Kern County, local law enforcement agencies and community groups are partnering to help make our roads safer by highlighting the dangers of being distracted while driving.

Specifically, Bakersfield Police Department is instituting zero tolerance enforcement efforts to discourage distracted driving. Officers will have a special emphasis in April on enforcing all cell phone and distracted driving laws, according to the department, deploying extra traffic officers in city locations where higher numbers of traffic collisions occur. Starting in January, drivers no longer are allowed to hold their cellphones in their hands for any reason, including using any of a phone’s apps, such as music playlists. Fines start at $162 for first time offenders.

A recent national survey found that nearly one-third of drivers reported sending a text message or e-mail while driving, and 42 percent said had read a text or e-mail. A California Office of Traffic Safety study also determined that 1 out of 8 drivers on the road is paying as much attention to his or her smartphone as to the road. State road safety officials estimate that some form of distracted driving is a factor in 80 percent of crashes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is asking drivers to take a pledge to drive phone-free today: never texting or talking on the phone while driving, speaking out if the driver in your car is distracted, and encouraging friends and family to drive phone-free.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a crash due to the fault of a suspected distracted driver, please call the car accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000 or visit chainlaw.com for a free consultation on your case.

Staying safe while driving after ‘deadliest year on the road’

October 12, 2016 | 9:12 am


A scary truth is that whenever you step into a vehicle, you risk the possibility of being involved in a crash, which could also result in injury, or even death.

In fact, USA Today recently reported that “U.S. traffic deaths jumped 7.7% in 2015, marking the deadliest year on the road since 2008.” According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 35,000 people died in 2015 from car crashes.

Even more, traffic fatalities in the United States rose by an estimated 10.4 percent in the first half of 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which called this an “immediate crisis.” And as traffic fatalities spike, the U.S. government announced a commitment to ending road deaths within 30 years, committing $1 million a year for the next three years for related grants, CNN reported.

For now, there are steps you can take to keep you and your family as safe as possible.

For example, distracted driving is becoming more of a problem in today’s society, accounting for 26 percent of fatalities in car crashes, according to the National Safety Council. It’s up to each driver on the road to focus on the road, and do his or her best to prevent crashes. In short, distracted driving includes the following:

  • Texting while driving or using a cell phone in any way
  • Eating or drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Doing your makeup
  • Changing the radio station, song or volume
  • Using a hands-free device can also be a distraction
  • Having an emotional conversation while driving

Texting and driving is likely one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving because it requires drivers to take their eyes off the road to read and type a message, their hands off the steering wheel to type, and it requires their mind to be thinking about what to say or how to respond to the message instead of focusing on the road.

Here are several safety tips that will help you put the phone down, and help make the road a safer place:

  • Put your phone somewhere you cannot reach it, or turn it off completely so it will not be a distraction.
  • If you have to answer your phone wait until you can pull over safely to answer it.
  • If you have to eat or drink, pull over and do so safely.
  • Get enough sleep so you do not become fatigued; however, if you do find yourself getting tired, pull into a safe parking lot, lock your doors and take a nap.
  • Plan ahead enough time to get yourself ready for the day, so you don’t have to do any grooming in the car.
  • Have your car stereo set the way you want it before you start to drive.

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If you or someone you know is involved and injured in a car or motor vehicle accident, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles right away at (661) 323-4000 or visit the website chainlaw.com. And remember to take the following three steps if you have been involved in an automobile accident:

1) Obtain the name, address, insurance information, vehicle identification number (VIN) and driver’s license number of any and all persons involved in the accident, as well as the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all witnesses.

2) Make sure that a report is filed with the police, sheriff, or highway patrol, but do not talk to anyone else, especially insurance adjusters, about the accident or sign anything without first consulting an attorney.

3) Seek medical attention immediately and explain to your physician or surgeon all of the symptoms and complaints you have been feeling since the accident occurred.

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— By Marisol Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

Take the pledge: April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

April 4, 2014 | 9:59 am


Put down the cell phone, and stay alive.

That’s the message this month from the National Safety Council and National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration as April is “National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.”

Thousands die each year due to people using their cell phones while driving. In fact, here are some startling statistics, courtesy of the safety council:

  • The No. 1 cause of unintentional deaths in the United States is car crashes.
  • About 100 people die every day in car crashes.
  • Up to 90 percent of car crashes are caused by driver error.
  • At any moment, 9 percent of drivers are talking on cell phones.
  • About 26 percent of all car crashes involve cell phones or hands-free devices.
  • The NHTSA estimates that 3,328 people were killed and an estimated 421,000 were injured in distraction-related crashes in 2012.

As part of the month-long campaign, officials want drivers to pledge to drive cell-free, recognize that hands-free devices offer no safety benefit, understand the dangers of the cognitive distraction to the brain, and tell others about the dangers of cell phone distracted driving.

Down south, too, the Los Angeles Police Department kicked off the “Look Up!” campaign, in partnership with the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration’s “National Distracted Driving Awareness Month”. It’s aimed to bring awareness to the public about the dangers of texting and driving.

For example, statistics show that every time a driver sends a text message he looks at the phone for an average of 4.6 seconds, and in that time a car driving 55 mph will go the length of a football field, according to CBS-2 Los Angeles.

And remember, it’s the law in California, where there’s a ban on hand-held devices for drivers and for texting while driving.

So, are you taking the pledge? To learn more about these facts, the dangers, and what you can do, visit the National Safety Council website.

And for more information, tips and resources on what to do if you’re ever in a car accident in and around Bakersfield and need legal assistance, no matter the type of accident, visit our two websites, HERE and HERE.