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The distracted driving risks of simply hearing a cell notification

In modern-day America, paying attention is a rarer phenomenon than it should be. We are constantly bombarded by things competing for our attention: television, radio, internet ads and, of course, our cellphones. With so much technology always in our immediate field of vision, it is easy to forget that other things need and deserve our attention as well.

One of those things is driving. Despite California's ban on texting and handheld cellphone use behind the wheel, distracted driving is still a common hazard. And according to a recent study, our cellphones can be a distraction in the car even if we don't look at them or pick them up.

New decision by regulators in Tracy Morgan accident

As many people have heard by now, the truck accident that left comedian and actor Tracy Morgan with serious injuries and left another comedian dead was at the center of multiple lawsuits. One alleged wrongful death and was filed by the family of the deceased comedian; while the other alleged negligence and was filed by Tracy Morgan, and that lawsuit was settled out of court.

Still, this unfortunate accident is making headlines, and the most recent one confirms what we all were likely thinking: that the truck driver that plowed into Morgan's limo was deprived of necessary sleep and that, after 28 hours without sleep, his fatigued state "largely" caused the accident.

What laws are in place in California for distracted drivers?

Distracted driving is a huge problem all across the country, and each state has a different way of dealing with the issue. But if there is one place in the U.S. that may have more of a problem with distracted driving than other places, it is the Bay Area. The sacred tech grounds of the Bay have led to the proliferation of cellphones and the many uses that they have. And for many, that means using their cellphones even while driving.

So what laws are in place to curtail to dangerous act of driving while using a cellphone? In California, there are two primary laws on the books that ban handheld devices for all drivers and ban texting while driving for all drivers. Additional laws ban any cellphone use by bus drivers and novice drivers (though the law for the latter group is only a secondary law).

Injuries involved for first time in self-driving car accident

About a month ago, we wrote a post on this blog about self-driving cars, and how Google and Tesla are at the forefront of this endeavor. Autonomous vehicles seem bound to become mainstream, but there are still many questions that need to be asked about how these vehicles function -- as well as how these vehicles fit in with current laws.

In that post last month, we referenced a "near accident" that involved two self-driving cars. At that time, Google's self-driving program had not been involved in an accident that also involved injuries. Oh, how times have changed.

The many tasks to complete after getting into a car accident

Imagine a car accident scene in the moments that immediate follow that first meeting between bumper and metal. You're hurt; you're angry; you're emotional; and while all of this understandable, you also have a job to do. You have to perform all of the important steps necessary to help you deal with this car accident in the coming days, weeks and months.

So how do you do that? One step at a time.

Congress tackles truck safety and the DOT

Senate Bill 1739 made its debut in Congress earlier this month. The Truck Safety Act includes, among other things, a call for the Secretary of Transportation to finalize regulations requiring speed limiters on heavy trucks within a year. In our June 9, 2015, post, the draft regulation is expected at the end of August, and it could be more than a year before the final rule is released.

The bill also asks DOT to craft a rule requiring crash avoidance systems on heavy trucks. Crash avoidance systems include forward collision warnings, forward collision automatic braking and lane departure warnings. The bill would give DOT two years to come up with a final rule that would take effective two years later -- making 2019 the target date for implementation.

Lane splitting bill is dead, but data supports proposal

While newspapers and television stations often report that lane splitting is neither legal nor illegal in California, they are not exactly right. Lane splitting -- that is, driving between lanes of traffic or sharing a lane with another vehicle -- is banned, but only for "[f]ully enclosed 3-wheeled motor vehicles of specified dimensions." (Cal. Veh. Code ┬ž 21714) The law is silent on the legality of motorcycles and lane splitting, though.

One state legislator was hoping to change that with a bill that would make lane splitting legal under some circumstances. The bill passed the Assembly but failed to make it out of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. It may or may not be reintroduced next year.

In an accident, the product, not the person, may be to blame

If you take a quick look at our last post, you will quickly pick up our reference to human error being the cause of most motor vehicle accidents. A closer look, though, will tell you that the post is not about human error, or even the potential for human error. The focus is on the safety of the driverless cars.

The fact is that people are injured or die in accidents that are caused by a mechanical failure or a design flaw of the vehicle itself. Last month, for example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Honda confirmed that an eighth death had been attributed to a faulty Takata airbag. For some people, that may look like a low number; after all, carmakers recalled 30 million affected vehicles. But for the families and communities of those eight people, each death has been catastrophic.

Google, Tesla etc. try to make 'self-driving' equal 'blameless'

One of the standard arguments for driverless cars is that most car accidents are caused by human error. Or, as some skeptics have put it, "Cars don't kill people. People driving cars kill people." Either way, the experimental technology is more and more frequently finding its way onto California roads. With industry leaders Google and Tesla Motors Inc. headquartered here, the Bay Area may soon be the world's driverless test track.

Depending on where the information is coming from, the autonomous vehicles may not have been involved in any accidents but there have been some near misses. Reuters reported recently that two driverless cars came close to colliding in Palo Alto recently. The vehicles were prototypes from Google and Delphi Automotive, and both were equipped with back-up humans who could take over in an emergency.

Dreaming of California this summer? Not while driving, please! p3

The Fourth of July is coming up, the holiday that many of us look forward to the most. If you aren't a fan of fireworks, perhaps you enjoy the chance to sit with friends, enjoying a relaxed, extended afternoon, sharing barbecue and tossing back a few beers -- or even a nice California wine. The key to maintaining the vibe lies in monitoring your alcohol intake if you're planning to drive.

You see, according to research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Fourth of July is the deadliest day of the year.

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