| Added On April 21, 2011
The month of April is dedicated to distracted driver awareness. California law enforcement officials have celebrated the holiday by cracking down on distracted motorists and offering tickets and warnings to those who have fallen prey to the dozens of ways handheld devices can distract them from the road.
The efforts are not in vain as statistics reveal that California drivers using a handheld device are four times more likely to be involved in a roadway incident causing serious bodily injury or death. Distracted driving has claimed almost as many lives as driving while intoxicated and speeding. The delayed reaction time associated with text messaging specifically has been likened to one who is completely intoxicated and behind the wheel.
California legislature has unabashedly responded to the phenomenon by outlawing all text messaging and driving as well as the use of handheld electronic devices while behind the wheel. Still, motorists ignore the law and prioritize Twitter updates above roadway safety. Should the police catch you violating the texting law, you could face a fine up to $159. Any subsequent citations could run upwards of $275.
Drivers should be aware that a ‘hand held device’ is not limited to a cellular phone but could include any item that could possibly distract the driver. This includes, but is not limited to: iPods, iPads, laptops or GPS devices. Also, “text messaging” is not limited to SMS or MMS messaging, but also includes instant messaging and emailing as well.
Violating California’s hand held device statutes could result in more than a fine from the DMV. Juries all over the state have awarded large verdicts in favor of plaintiffs who have been injured by the negligence of another driver carelessly involved in a text message conversation instead of carefully watching the road. Courts across California and the United States are finally realizing that text messaging while driving can kill other drivers. Verdicts in the millions of dollars are upheld to ensure plaintiffs are adequately compensated for their injuries and future defendants think twice before checking a text while on the highway.
Always remember that as technology blossoms, alternatives to texting while driving continue to emerge. Smartphone users, or parents of smartphone users, can now install an application which will disable texting or answering calls while the phone is in the vehicle. Some of the newest makes and models feature technology which can read text messages and Facebook statuses out loud so drivers need only engage their ears, and not their hands, to know the latest gossip within the social network. These are relatively inexpensive devices compared with the cost of a violation or worse, the cost of a severe accident resulting from distracted driving.
We encourage all Californians to curb the use of handheld devices while driving. Not only is it illegal, but it is negligent conduct that can easily injure or kill other drivers. Answering a text or a phone call simply isn’t worth it in light of the consequences.