Is California Getting Tougher on Distracted Driving?

photo of a guy playing pokemon go while driving

Did you know that distracted driving is one of the most dangerous things you can do while behind the wheel? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that distractions caused 10 percent of all fatal crashes and 15 percent of all injury crashes in the U.S. during 2015. That means around 391,000 people suffered injuries and 3,477 people lost their lives in distracted driving crashes that year. These facts highlight the seriousness of the nationwide distracted driving epidemic. However, what is being done about this problem?

At Traffic Accident Law Center, our San Diego distracted driving lawyer wants to keep you informed about the law, your rights and how to stay safe on our California roads. Here’s a review of California’s distracted driving laws as well as the safety measures California officials are taking to make our roads safer.

Three California Distracted Driving Laws You Need to Know

Our state has many laws to protect Californians from distracted driving. However, every driver in our state, whether they are a resident or just a visitor, needs to know about these three laws the most.

  1. The Handheld Cellphone Ban – State law restricts all drivers from using handheld cellphones while driving. The only exceptions to this rule are the Hands-Free Cellphone Law (which we will discuss below), when calling emergency services or law enforcement, while operating an emergency vehicle or when operating a vehicle on private property.
  2. The Texting While Driving Ban – This law prohibits the use of any wireless device as well as writing and transmitting a text while driving. As with the Handheld Cellphone Ban, people contacting emergency services or law enforcement are exempt. However, there are other exceptions under this law. If it only requires a tap or a swipe, you may enable or disable a mounted GPS system. You may also use a manufacturer-installed system that is embedded in your vehicle.
  3. The Hands-Free Cellphone Law – If you are 18 or older, then you can use hands-free cellphones. This includes Bluetooth enabled devices, phones that use voice commands and speakerphone functions. If the device requires earpieces, then it cannot cover both ears. Drivers under 18 cannot use an electronic communication device. This includes a cellphone (handheld or hands-free), pager, laptop or any other wireless device to speak or text while driving. Contacting law enforcement or emergency services are the only exceptions.

Drivers caught violating these laws are subject to a $20 fine for the first offense or a $50 fine for subsequent offenses. However, additional assessments will increase the actual costs of these violations. First-time offenses add up to over $150 and subsequent violations can add up to over $250.

California’s Distracted Driving Solutions

The laws listed above are our state’s first line of defense against distracted driving, but they are not always effective. A study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety states that over 84 percent of drivers recognize that distracted driving is dangerous. However, 36 percent of those same drivers admitted to driving while distracted the month before they took the survey. To combat tendencies like this, California safety agencies teamed up to increase enforcement and education across the state.

In April, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) joined forces with the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), Impact Teen Drivers (ITD) and other traffic safety partners to launch a month-long public education campaign. Dubbed “Put Your Phone Down. Just Drive.”, the campaign broadcasted its message of safety through billboards, social media, TV ads and radio spots. In addition to this campaign, CHP and local police departments increased enforcement efforts. This initiative led to 19,850 California hands-free law citations during April.

Is a New Distracted Driving Law in the Works?

As public safety organizations do their best to stop distracted driving accidents in California, lawmakers are also doing their part. Assembly Bill 47 unanimously passed the full California State Assembly on May 23. This bill proposes adding points to the driver’s license of any California driver caught using a cellphone while driving twice in a 36-month period. However, the California State Senate must pass the bill and Governor Gavin Newsom must sign it before this policy can become law.

How a San Diego Distracted Driving Attorney Can Help

Do you think these tougher measures will have an effect on distracted driving in California? Has distracted driving affected your life? The Traffic Accident Law Center is ready to help you make a difference. Our San Diego auto accident law firm helps the victims of distracted drivers put their lives back together. To learn more about what we can do, give us a call at (619)882-1111 or fill out our online contact form.