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california distracted driving law

It is no secret that distracted driving continues to be on the rise. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, 80% of vehicle collisions involve some aspect of driver inattention.

According to California distracted driving law, anything that takes your full attention off the road is considered distracted driving.

Texting and Phone Use

Using a handheld device while driving is illegal in California. Judges and juries often award huge recoveries to those who are injured by a driver who was using his cell phone at the time of the incident.

Fast Food

Although eating while driving isn’t prohibited, it is still a major cause of distracted driving accidents. Foods that may require special attention, like the ones that you dip into sauces, are common culprits for distracted driving accidents.

Personal Grooming

Whether its touching up your mascara or shaving before an important meeting, any form of personal grooming while behind the wheel is considered to be distracted driving. Although countless drivers engage in this hazardous form of multitasking, it can also be a massive problem if it results in a car crash.

Rowdy Passengers, Children in the Backseat, Bending Down to Reach the Floor

As mentioned before, anything that takes your full attention off the road is considered distracted driving. Be wary of distracted drivers not looking or paying attention to the road and their surroundings.

Your Potential Distracted Driving Claim

No matter what state you are in, if you have been injured in an auto accident caused by a distracted driver, that person is at fault.

In these cases, the distracted driver and their insurance company are responsible for paying for your damaged vehicle, medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

If you know if the other driver was texting, eating, meddling with passengers, or distracted for any other reason, it’s important to mention it the police officer writing up the report. Your truthful statement will help build up your future claim.

How An Accident Attorney Can Help You

Your recovery can hinge on whether or not you have an experienced accident lawyer on your side.

An insurance company will try to minimize your injuries to save themselves as much money as possible. Do not go it alone. At Negretti & Associates, we will negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf to get you the maximum compensation you deserve for your current and future medical treatment, property damage, and lost wages.

Our team of accident attorneys knows what it takes to win. We promise to fully investigate your claim and make sure you get the recovery you deserve. If you have been involved in an accident with a distracted driver in California, we invite you to schedule a free consultation with our firm by calling 619-777-3370 or contacting us online.

When asked about causes of vehicle accidents, most people immediately think of impairment, such as alcohol, or distracted driving, such as texting. However, drowsy, or fatigued driving kills, and is a major problem in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines drowsy driving as, “the dangerous combination of driving and sleepiness or fatigue,” and the National Sleep Foundation estimates that sixty percent of American adult drivers, about 168 million, say they have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy in the past year, and more than one-third, approximately 103 million people, have actually fallen asleep while driving!

Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 100,000 crashes, 71,000 injuries, 12.5 billion in monetary losses and 846 deaths in 2014. However, these numbers are believed to be underestimated, as it is difficult to determine if fatigue caused driver error, and up to 6,000 fatal crashes may be caused by drowsy drivers each year.

The Warning Signs of Fatigued Driving

  • Disconnected thoughts or daydreaming.
  • Frequent blinking or heavy eyelids.
  • Persistent yawning or rubbing your eyes.
  • Feeling irritable or restless.
  • Trouble keeping your head up.
  • Trouble remembering driving the last few miles.
  • Missing your exit, road signs or traffic signs.
  • Hitting the rumble strips, tailgating or drifting into other lanes.

Fatigued driving is so dangerous because it impairs reaction time, reduces a driver’s vigilance and causes problems with processing information.

How to Determine a Fatigued Driver

In our fast-paced society people have learned to juggle many different responsibilities, including family, work and social life which may cause some to be exhausted by the end of the day. Although most people are prone to being fatigued at specific times, there are certain people that may experience a higher risk of fatigued driving, including:

  • Shift workers: People who work rotating shifts, nights shifts, double shifts or work more than one job are six-times more likely to be involved in a fatigued driving accident. Shift work may also lead to certain disorders, for example, according to the Alaska Sleep Education Center, shift work sleep disorder is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder that is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and insomnia. People who tend to work unusual schedules have their circadian rhythms disrupted, which may cause a number of physiological and mental problems.
  • Medication Side Effects: Many medications include sleepiness as a side effect. People that take these medications have a higher risk of fatigued driving. Examples of medications that have a sedating effect are: cold tablets, antihistamines and antidepressants, among others.
  • Drivers with untreated sleep disorders: Drivers that do not treat sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (“OSA”), narcolepsy and insomnia have a higher risk than the average driver for fatigued driving accidents. In all of these disorders the most common symptom is excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • Age: Young drivers, from teen years to 25 years old (especially males) are considered an age group that is most likely to be involved in a fatigued driving accident. According to the NHTSA, “drivers younger than 30 accounted for almost two-thirds of drowsy-driving crashes, despite representing only about one-fourth of licensed drivers. These drivers were four times more likely to have such a crash than were drivers ages 30 years or older.” There are many theories as to why young drivers are involved in such a high percentage of fatigued driving accidents, however, the most common theory is that inexperience combined with sleepiness and the tendency to drive at night increases risk.
  • Commercial Drivers: People that drive a large number of miles and drive at night are at a much higher risk for fatigued driver accidents. Commercial drivers have also been found to be at a high risk for sleep disorders.
  • Business Travelers: People who travel frequently for their jobs or for leisure who may be suffering from jet lag and crossing different time zones, or spending long hours behind the wheel are also at an increased risk of being involved in a fatigued driver accident.

fatigued driving

Fatigued Driving Prevention

Many people believe that they can just “power through” a difficult driving situation by turning on the radio or rolling down their window to get some fresh air, however, these tactics do little to actually combat fatigued driving. There are better ways to prevent drowsy driving, before hitting the road drivers should:

  • Get a good night’s sleep before a long drive.
  • When taking longer trips plan to do the majority of your driving during the day.
  • If you are feeling fatigued, or notice signs that you may be drowsy, and you have a passenger in the vehicle, ask the passenger to drive.
  • If you are feeling drowsy, pull over and rest or sleep at a rest stop.
  • Use caffeine, which will provide a short-term boost, however, the effects may only last up to an hour and do not provide a long-term solution.
  • Consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any possible sleeping disorders.
  • If you are driving a long distance, schedule regular stops every 100 miles or two hours.

Get Involved

The National Sleep Foundation sponsors Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, an annual, national campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of driving while tired. In 2016, Drowsy Driving Prevention Week was November 6-13. The campaign chooses a week in November every year; people that are interested in Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, or becoming a Drowsy Driving Advocate, may find more information here.

Despite the majority of people knowing the national, “Click It Or Ticket” enforcement campaign, and the staggering statistics showing that wearing a seat belt is the most effective way to save lives (The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45%) and reduce injuries, millions of people still do not buckle-up.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, thirteen percent of drivers still do not wear their seat belts.

Seat Belt Laws

The majority of seat belt laws in the United States are left to the states. However, the first seat belt law was a federal one. Title 49 of the United States Code, Chapter 301, requires all vehicles (except buses) to be fitted with seat belts in all designated seating positions. The law has now been modified to require three-point belts in all seating positions.

Although there is an over-arching federal law that involves seat belts, the states are free to create their own laws governing seat belt use. Laws requiring seat belt usage are either “primary” or “secondary” enforcement laws. Primary enforcement laws allow police officers to pull over drivers and issue a ticket just because the drivers, or their passengers, are not wearing their seat belts. However, secondary laws only allow police officers to issue tickets for seat belt violations once the driver has been pulled over for some other offense.

The age in which a driver or passenger is required to wear a seat belt varies from state to state. However, Arizona law requires that each front seat occupant must wear a lap and shoulder belt while the vehicle is in motions. A citation will be issued to the driver for each passenger under 16 years of age that is occupying the front seat and not wearing a seat belt. The exception to this rule is a child that is under five years old, which must be properly secured in a child restraint system.

Seat Belt Safety

The accurate way to wear a seat belt is to have the shoulder belt pulled over your shoulder (not under your arm or behind your back) and across your chest with the belt up close against the body.

Additionally, the lap belt should be close to the body and low on the hips. This positioning will allow the chest and the pelvis to take most of the force of a collision rather than other body parts, which may not be able to handle the impact.

Some of the common seat belt mistakes include:

• Not wearing a seat belt at all. Airbags are designed to work with seat belts, not to replace them. If you are not wearing your seat belt the impact could throw you forward while the airbag is being deployed and the impact may seriously injure or kill you.

• Wearing a seat belt that is too loose. If the seat belt is not close against your body, the impact of the accident could cause your body to slam against parts of the vehicle.

• Wearing the lap belt across your stomach instead of low on the hips. The stomach is not as equipped to sustain impact as the pelvis. If there is a collision, there is a good chance that there will be internal soft tissue injury if the seat belt is worn across the stomach. This is doubly important for pregnant women, who should not wear their seat belt across their stomach but should wear it lower toward their pelvis.

• Wearing the shoulder belt behind your back or under your arm. If there is an impact you are much more likely to slip through the seat belt and be thrown from the vehicle or slam into the inside of the vehicle.

• Making excuses to not wear a seat belt. Excuses such as: I’m not driving very far, the seat belt is uncomfortable to me or It’s not cool to wear a seat belt, may pose serious risks to the excuse maker and the other passengers in the vehicle. Studies show that 75 percent of accidents happen within 25 miles of the home. Furthermore, it is more important to be safe than a little uncomfortable and just because you are sitting in the back seat does not mean that you can’t be thrown through the windshield or hit other passengers.

Our relationship with technological innovation is complicated and cuts both ways. Technology gives us the ability to stay connected through phone calls, text messages, emails and social media. Yet, it’s one of the leading causes of distracted driving, causing vehicle accidents, injuries, and fatalities. In turn, we are finding news ways to use technology to curb distracted driving, through smartphone apps.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2014 there were 3,179 people killed and 431,000 injured in motor vehicle accidents involving distracted drivers. Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention from the primary task of driving. Some examples of distracted driving include eating, drinking, reading, talking with passengers, and using a cell phone.

With the advent of the smartphone, drivers essentially have a computer at their fingertips, causing accidents from cell phone usage to skyrocket. According to the National Safety Council, smartphone-related accidents have increased for the third consecutive year in a row, with texting while driving making a vehicle accident 8-23 times more likely.

State Laws that Aim To Prevent Distracted Driving

In 46 states and the District of Columbia, it is illegal to text while driving. The table below shows the penalties that each state imposes for texting while driving.

preventing distracted driving

As of 2017, Arizona does not have a statewide ban on the use of cell phones while driving. Multiple localities have ratified their own bans on text messaging. In Arizona, the cities of Phoenix, Flagstaff, Tucson, and Tempe have banned the use of texting while driving. Additionally, Coconino and Pima Counties have banned the use of texting while driving.

Phoenix Municipal Code § 36-76.01 bans texting while driving. The law states, in part:

A. A person shall not operate a motor vehicle on a street while using a personal digital assistant to send or receive a written message while the motor vehicle is in motion.

B. This section does not apply to any of the following:

1. Law enforcement and safety personnel.

2. Drivers of authorized emergency vehicles.

3. Holders of commercial driver licenses while driving within the scope of their employment.

4. Public transit personnel.

5. A person who is reporting reckless or negligent behavior.

6. The use of a personal digital assistant for the sole purpose of communicating with any of the following regarding an emergency situation:

(a) An emergency response operator.

(b) A hospital, physician’s office or health clinic.

(c) A provider of ambulance services.

(d) A provider of fire fighting services.

(e) A law enforcement agency.

7. A person who believes the person is in physical danger if the person is the only adult in the motor vehicle.

C. For purposes of this section, “personal digital assistant” means a wireless electronic communication device that provides for data communication other than by voice.

D. A violation of this section is a nonmoving civil traffic violation.
(Ord. No. G-4985, § 1, adopted 9-19-2007, eff. 9-19-2007; Ord. No. G-5034, § 1, adopted 12-5-2007, eff. 1-4-2008)

Distracted Driving Accident Liability

In order to prove liability in an accident involving cell phone use, it is very likely that evidence will be needed to prove that the driver was not paying attention. Three potential ways to prove the accident was caused by cell phone usage include:

  • Cellphone records proving the driver was on a call or texting during the accident;
  • Photos or video from a passenger cell phone, surveillance cameras or police dash cams; and
  • Police reports.

Distracted Driving Prevention Apps

As distracted driving injuries and fatalities continue to rise, companies have started to create a variety of apps to encourage safe driving and block cell phone usage while driving.

Apps that encourage safe driving include:

1. Drivesafe.ly: A free mobile app that reads text messages and emails aloud in real time and automatically responds without the driver touching the mobile phone.

2. SafeDrive: An app that starts awarding points once the driver exceeds 6mph and does not touch their screen. The driver may compete against other drivers or use their accumulated points on discounted products offered by responsible companies.

3. Drivemode: An app that turns your text messages into audio that your phone will read aloud with the touch of a button. There are prerecorded responses to send as responses back to the texts that the driver receives.

Apps that block cell phone use while driving include:

1. Live2Txt: An app that will block incoming calls and texts while driving. The app will silence incoming notifications and send a customized message alerting the person that you are unable to respond.

2. Cellcontrol: An app and device that is designed for parents and is subscription based. The device is placed under the vehicle’s dashboard and will block the driver from sending texts or phone calls while the car is moving. If the device is removed or deactivated the parent would receive an email or text alert.

3. TextArrest: An app that prevents emailing and texting while the car is in motion.

tips to avoid distracted driving

When does a smartphone make you dumb?

When you’re driving!

Every day, news reports tell of car accidents that occur all over Arizona. Some accidents are mild fender-benders, but others are incredibly horrific, with multiple causalities.

Distracted driving has been described as a “deadly epidemic” by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The personal injury attorneys at Negretti & Associates encourage drivers to consider the following tips to avoid distracted driving:

  • No texting and driving.
  • No emailing and driving.
  • If you must talk on your phone, use a hands-free device.
  • Secure any animals in the car.
  • Avoid eating and driving.
  • If you drop something, do not try to pick it up while driving. Pull over first.
  • Change the music by using the buttons on the steering wheel, if available.
  • Try to keep young children happy with singing, in-vehicle movies, talking, or easy games, like eye-spy.
  • Avoid conversations that can result in an escalation to a heated and emotional argument.
  • Avoid using your smartphone as a navigation device, unless you can turn on the auto prompts.

If you notice a distracted driver on the road, be sure to keep a safe distance between your vehicle and theirs. If you are worried the driver is about to cause harm to others, use your hands-free device to call 911.

If you’ve been in an auto accident and you believe the driver was distracted, contact the personal injury attorneys at Negretti & Associates. We will review your accident and your case for free.