Since the first Model T Ford took to the streets, drivers have had to contend with distractions. The California Office of Traffic Safety cautions motorists to avoid taking their eyes off the road or hands off the wheel for anything, including eating or drinking, picking up objects off the floor of the car or interacting with passengers. Eight out of 10 accidents involve a distracted driver according to the COTS.

In recent years drivers have a whole new set of distractions available to them, with the advent and increasing popularity of cellphones.

Dangers of distracted driving

Cellphone use, for talking or texting, is now the major source of driver distraction. At any given time, it is estimated that about 10 percent of drivers are using a cellphone.

Just talking on a cellphone while driving results in a diminished ability of the brain to attend to what’s right ahead. Texting adds additional cognitive tasks, and sending or reading a text can render the driver blind to the road for five seconds, long enough to travel the length of a football field. In most accidents, a driver has less than three seconds to react.

COTS reminds drivers that there is a potential economic consequence, even without getting into a distracted driving accident. The penalty for driving while using a cellphone is a $159 fine. Despite the dollar amount, it’s unclear whether criminal penalties are adequately addressing the problem. This is especially the case for victims and their families who are hurt or killed due to a distracted driver.

 Car crashes due to technological advances

One California driver who was cited for cell phone use is fighting the ticket, all the way to a California District Court of Appeals. The California Highway Patrol ticketed him because he was looking at his iPhone while stopped in a traffic jam on the highway. The man was checking a map.

The appeals court is being asked to decide whether current California law allows people to check a map application on a smart phone while driving. The state law explicitly prohibits use of a phone for talking or texting but does not list other ways of using a cell phone.

Even if other cell phone uses are technically legal from a criminal law perspective, it seems unwise to encourage a distracting activity. Distracted driving has had a major impact on motorists. Every year as many as 6,000 people are killed on the country’s roads because of a distracted driver.

A personal injury attorney

is an excellent resource for anyone who has been hurt by a negligent distracted driver. A victim who is injured due to a negligent driver may be awarded medical expenses, money to cover lost wages, and even compensation for pain and suffering.

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