What is distracted driving in California?

 California residents should become more aware about what can be considered distracted driving in an effort to improve safety.

Over the past several years, distracted driving has become a more frequently discussed topic in California. As laws have been introduced regarding the use of cell phones, there are still some questions about what exactly constitutes distracted driving and just how serious the problem really is.

Three types of distraction

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that there are three identified types of distractions to drivers. Anything that takes a driver’s hands off of the steering wheel is noted as a manual distraction. Anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road is noted as a visual distraction. Anything that takes the driver’s mental attention away from driving is noted as a cognitive distraction.

Distraction.gov provides the following as examples of driver distractions:

  • Eating or drinking
  • Talking to other people in the vehicle
  • Tuning a radio station or changing a CD
  • Programming a navigation device
  • Brushing hair, putting on lipstick or other grooming activities

Texting is frequently highlighted as the most dangerous form of distraction to drivers. This is because it involves all three types of distractions-cognitive, manual, and visual.

A serious problem

Distracted driving is linked to as many as 16 percent of all U.S. vehicular fatalities, claiming approximately 5,000 lives per year, according to the American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety. Distraction is especially prevalent among teen drivers as one study showed they spent a quarter of their driving time engaging in other behaviors. These behaviors included downloading music, answering emails and texting. Texting itself not only distracts a driver during the actual act of texting but for as long as 27 seconds after the driver resumes his or her full focus on driving.

Smartphones and navigation

The use of smartphones as navigational devices leaves some uncertainty in the air regarding distracted driving laws. KPCC news radio reports that California laws ban any handheld use of cellphones for communication purposes. There is nothing specified about the use of cellphones for navigational purposes, yet there is a clear stipulation that drivers should remain free from distraction.

California’s distracted driving laws

In addition to not using hands to make phone calls or text while operating vehicles, drivers are not allowed to text at any time they are behind the wheel of vehicles. Texting at a red light, therefore, is illegal. Adjusting music in a car via a phone is also not allowed.

Adults are permitted handheld use of phones for emergency purposes only. Drivers 17 years of age or younger are not allowed any use of a cellphone under any circumstances apart from true emergencies.

Accidents caused by distracted drivers

Anyone who is involved in a vehicle crash caused by a distracted driver should seek appropriate compensation. Working with an attorney to pursue this is recommended, especially with the sometimes unclear laws in California.