If you are a driver in California, you likely have some stories about the distracted drivers you have seen around you. You can often see drivers eating, talking on the phone, texting, reading, and even putting on clothes or makeup. It is certainly scary to watch, especially knowing that they are behind the wheel of what is essentially a two-ton weapon moving at speed. Many of us often say to ourselves, “That person is going to hurt or kill someone if they do not pay better attention to what they are doing!” The question then, is what happens when they actually do hurt or kill someone?
Motor Vehicle Accidents and Distracted Driving Statistics
In 2017 (the last year for which statistics are available), motor vehicle accidents were responsible for 37,133 fatalities in the US. According to The Office of Traffic Safety, California accounted for 3,602 of those. 858 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles in California, as well. Nationwide, 3,450 people were killed by distracted drivers as well as 562 pedestrians and bicyclists. This accounts for almost 10% of total fatalities. In California, which has some of the most strict distracted driver laws, there were more than 178,000 cell phone use convictions and more than 31,000 convictions for texting while driving (these numbers are for 2016, the most recent year for these numbers). Californians ranked texting while driving and talking on a phone (either with hands or hands-free) as the two largest dangers while driving and over 62% of those surveyed said they had either been hit or almost hit by someone using a cell phone. Clearly, distracted driving is a serious issue and is causing a substantial number of injuries and deaths that are potentially avoidable.
California Laws to Prevent Distracted Driving
California has some of the most aggressive laws in place to help curb distracted driving. Actions that are prohibited include:
- Talking on a hand-held cell phone
- Texting while driving
- Talking hands-free on a cell phone for those under 18 years of age
- Operating a vehicle at an unsafe speed (the circumstances are important here and eating or being otherwise distracted while driving can be considered as creating unsafe conditions)
Obviously, even with these laws on the books, over 178,000 people chose to talk on a cell phone illegally and were caught and convicted for it. Who knows how many did so and were never caught for it?
Distracted drivers are dangerous to other motorists and pedestrians alike. They tend to follow too closely, ignore traffic control devices (traffic lights and stop signs), ignore posted speed limits, and fail to yield the right of way appropriately. Simply put, if you are paying attention to your cell phone or your lunch, you can not pay adequate attention to the road and those around you. Distracted drivers injure and kill thousands of people every year, simply because they refuse to obey the laws. Californians recognize the danger and know that they are often taking their lives in their own hands when driving or walking on city streets.