In Costa Mesa and throughout California, legislators have enacted some of the toughest distracted driving laws in the United States, but a recent survey shows that drivers are texting more now than they were before the laws passed. A local attorney examines the effectiveness of distracted driving laws at deterring the practice and preventing auto accidents.
California Distracted Driving Laws
Distracted driving is a major problem in Costa Mesa, California, and nationwide, with a 2013 Governors Highway Safety Association report indicating that 40 states report that distracted driving is a concern that merits attention from their Strategic Highway Safety Plans, and increase from 28 states three years ago.
In Costa Mesa and throughout California, it is illegal to use a cell phone in any manner while operating a vehicle unless in hands-free mode. School bus drivers and motorists under 18 are completely restricted from any cell phone use. Despite these strict laws, distracted driving remains a problem. A recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey indicated that around 3.4 percent of California drivers were texting or using a hand-held wireless device, and increase from the 1.5 percent in 2008.
A 2012 California Office of Traffic Safety survey indicated that, while drivers ranked talking and texting on a cell phone the greatest traffic safety issue, more than 20 percent said they talk on a handheld cell phone while driving at least sometimes, and more than 16 percent said they text or send emails.
“Despite the fines, drivers continue to use their phones behind the wheel,” said the Costa Mesa auto accident attorney. “This is a problem not just in California but also nationwide.”
Distracted Driving across the United States
A recent Governors Highway Safety Association report reveals that even as more states have begun to crack down on distracted driving, the behavior has increased, in large part due to the increased role that cell phones play in people’s lives.
In February 2012, an estimated 50 percent of adults throughout America reportedly owned a smartphone, a 36 percent increase from the year prior. In December 2012, there were a reported 326.4 million wireless subscriptions in the United States, and users were sending and receiving an average of six billion text messages daily, or 69,635 text messages every second.
With so many texting drivers, it should come as no surprise that there has been a 45 percent increase in the number of states with texting bans for all drivers over the course of the past three years. Today, 41 states and D.C. have laws banning the practice as of early 2013.
Forty-seven states and D.C. also reported that they had taken steps to educate the public on distracted driving dangers in 2012 and these efforts seem, at first glance, to be penetrating the public conscious. In fact, 94.5 percent of respondents to an AAA survey reported social disapproval for texting and emailing while driving. Nine out of 10 respondents said they believed that drivers on cell phones were a “somewhat” or “very” serious threat to personal safety, and 19 out of 20 said that texting is even worse.
“Despite the acknowledged dangers, drivers continue to participate in behavior they admit is risky,” said the Costa Mesa auto accident attorney.
In fact, 26.6 percent of drivers responding to the same AAA survey said that they had texted while driving at least once in the past 30 days and 34.6 percent admitted to reading a text or email while they drove.
The high number of people texting and driving, coupled with increased cell phone use among the population, helps to explain why texting and driving has increased in Costa Mesa, California, and nationwide, even with drivers facing potential fines and penalties. It means that states have an uphill battle with getting drivers to obey distracted driving laws.
Drivers who cause auto accidents while distracted can be held responsible for the damage they cause in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. While this protects victims from facing financial loss due to a collision, preventing and avoiding distracted driving accidents in the first place through more enforcement and better education is important.
Additional articles on distracted driving and the civil claims process after an auto accident are available to the public free of charge through our office.
If you would like to request one of these free resources, or to speak with a Costa Mesa auto accident attorney, feel free to call 888-834-5055.