Distracted driving is anything that takes your eyes or mind off the road, or your hands off the steering wheel – especially texting and cell phone use. These are the most dangerous things we do behind the wheel that many people do not think about because it is so common.
However, it is important to recognize the dangers of distracted driving. In California, cell phone laws were enacted to help prevent distracted driving. These laws prohibit cell phone and electronic wireless device usage among any driver, transit and school bus drivers, except for valid emergency or work-related purposes. Any driver under the age of 18 cannot use a cell phone or any other electronic wireless device at all, not hand-held, hands-free, Bluetooth, speaker phone, or any other means.
With a new law in place that expands on the previous cell phone laws in California, AB 1785 prohibits driving while holding a cell phone in your hand. If the cell phone is used in a hands-free manner, such as voice command or the use of a mounting device, it is completely legal. While driving, you can single swipe or tap the screen to activate or deactivate a feature or function, but you cannot text, scroll or tap multiple times. This law is designed to prevent distracted driving and to help make California’s roads safer.
So what about other distractions, like eating, grooming, dogs in the lap, etc? Those other actions may not be illegal but if a law enforcement officer sees anything that might be considered distracting enough to be a danger, they may be cited under other vehicle sections, such as VC 22350, the basic speed law which restricts speed for multiple reasons including reckless driving and disregard for the safety of persons or property.
To inform and educate people on the dangers of distracted driver, OTS created PSAs to help deliver the message:
- Emoji Distraction
- Silence the Distraction "Nick"
- Silence the Distraction "Teen"
- Silence the Distraction "Spanish"
- Take Action Against Distraction
There are many facts that show how dangerous distracted driving can be:
- In 2016, a survey showed that more than 44% of Californians said that texting while driving is the most serious distraction for drivers.
- In 2016, more than 54% of California drivers surveyed said they had been hit or nearly hit by a driver who was talking or texting on cell phone.
- In 2016, nearly 40% of drivers admitted to making a mistake while talking on a cell phone.
- Nationally, 3,154 people were killed and an estimated 424,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2013.
- 10 percent of drivers of all ages under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of crash.
- Engaging in visual-manual subtasks, such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting, increases the risk of getting into a crash by three times.
- 5 seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.
Despite these alarming facts, fatal crashes involving distracted driving can be prevented. If caught, a ticket costs $161 for texting and talking. Save yourself the time and money, eliminate your distractions while driving so that you can help keep everyone safe on the roads:
- Never text and drive.
- Turn off your phone before you get behind the wheel.
- Don’t text or call someone when you know they are likely to be driving.
- Make a pact with your family, spouse and caregivers to never use the phone with children in the car.
- Do not eat or drink while driving.
- Do not program your GPS, MP3 player or other devices while driving.
- If a phone call is necessary or you need reroute your map, pull over to a safe parking spot.
- Do not groom.
- Do not read.
- Do not watch videos.
- Try not to get too involved with passengers in your car.
- Finally, if something falls to the floor, pull over to a safe parking spot before trying to reach it.
For more information on distracted driving and what you can do to help keep California’s roads safe:
- OTS Distracted Driving Fact Sheet: For additional statistics and facts.
- National Safety Council: For additional information, studies and helpful reminders.
- Impact Teen Drivers: Helpful information for parents and teen drivers on distracted driving.
- Distracted.Gov: The U.S. government’s official website on distracted driving.