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Distracted Driving Initiatives in California

The McClellan Law Firm

In our last blog post, we discussed the culture of distracted driving in the U.S. What are we doing to change this culture and make our roads safer for all drivers? Two initiatives to fight distracted driving in California made the news recently.

The first initiative is a bill before the California legislature that would strengthen texting while driving bans for teenagers. The bill, SB 194, would expand the state's prohibition against teenage use of mobile phones to include all electronic wireless communication devices, including Siri voice integration technology and Bluetooth devices.

Meanwhile, the California Highway Patrol, the California Office of Traffic Safety and local police agencies will devote patrols and attention to cell phone use while driving in April, which is Distracted Driver Awareness Month. Expect more patrols on the lookout for drivers texting and talking on handheld cell phones. If caught for a first texting while driving offense, a driver could face a $159 penalty. A subsequent offense will cost $279.

Many argue, of course, that the fines do not go far enough to encourage drivers to put down their cell phones. Across the U.S., distracted driving causes 1.3 million accidents every year and more than 3,000 people are killed.

Unfortunately, no matter what law is in place against distracted driving, it can be difficult to enforce. Highway patrol have difficulty determining whether drivers are texting and must watch for people with their eyes focused on something below the steering column. And then come the excuses. "A lot of people will use the 'prayer while driving' excuse," the spokesman for the California Office of Traffic Safety, Chris Cochran, said. "Others say 'I was checking out my shoelaces.'"

Some people simply don't get it until it is too late. Most people who cause distracted driving accident injuries and deaths feel tremendous guilt for their actions. But their feelings don't compare to those who have lost loved ones or have suffered serious injuries because of a driver's poor choice to use a cell phone while driving.