People who read or send text messages while driving are 23 times more likely to be involved in a car accident than those who don’t text while driving. This is the highest risk increase of all distracted driving activities. For example, dialing a cell phone increases your crash risk by 2.8 times, reaching for your phone increases your crash risk by 1.4 times, and talking or listening increases your crash risk by 1.3 times.
Texting and driving is dangerous because it encompasses all three types of distracted driving behaviors: visual, manual, and cognitive.
- Visual: You’re taking your eyes off the road to look at your phone. If you're traveling 55 miles per hour, reading the average text takes your eyes off the road for about five seconds. This is long enough for you to drive the distance of a football field.
- Manual: You're pushing buttons to send or receive texts and otherwise manipulate your phone, which means you don’t have both hands on the steering wheel.
- Cognitive: You're thinking about the content of a message instead of the road in front of you.
Reasons Why People Continue to Text and Drive
An AT&T Inc. poll conducted as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of texting and driving found that 98 percent of drivers believed texting and driving was dangerous, but 75 percent admitted to doing it anyway. Their reasons were varied:
- 28 percent believed they might miss something important if they didn't respond to a text immediately
- 25 percent felt that their personal multi-tasking ability made it possible for them to text and drive safely
- 17 percent said responding to a text immediately gave them a feeling of satisfaction
- 14 percent said temporarily ignoring a message made them feel anxious
- 6 percent said they were addicted to texting
Teens are often portrayed as the worst texting and driving offenders, but this behavior occurs with all age groups. In fact, 48 percent of teens report being in a car while the adult driver was texting. When teens observe adults texting and driving, the teens gain a false presumption of safety.
Texting and Driving Laws
Texting and driving laws are generally decided on a state by state basis. California law bans texting while driving for all drivers, with the following exceptions:
- Emergency services personnel operating an authorized emergency vehicle
- Drivers turning on or off a mounted GPS with one tap or swipe
- People who are using a manufacturer-installed system embedded in the vehicle
Although the base fine for violating California's texting and driving law is just $20 for the first offense and $50 for a second or subsequent offense, additional penalties and surcharges can substantially increase the total you'll pay. Drivers can easily pay $150 or more for a first offense and $250 or more for a second or subsequent offense.
Police have primary enforcement authority for texting and cell phone use prohibitions, which means you can be pulled over for texting and driving even if you were obeying all other traffic laws. However, a violation won't result in added points on your driving record.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration bans all commercial vehicle drivers from texting while driving. Federal employees are also banned from texting and driving while on the job or using government equipment, regardless of what state they are in.
Staying Safe Behind the Wheel
The easiest way to stay safe is to simply keep your phone out of reach while you're driving, so you're not tempted to answer or send texts. However, there are also a number of apps that block texting and/or incoming calls while you're driving. Cellcontrol, Drive SafeMode, and Live2Txt are some of the most popular options.
Protecting Your Legal Rights Following an Accident
If you're involved in an auto accident caused by a driver who was texting, you're entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Protect your rights by hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to negotiate the highest possible settlement or secure a verdict in your favor.
The team at Inland Empire Law Group is committed to helping injured California residents receive fair and prompt personal injury settlements or to protect their rights in trial. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at our Rancho Cucamonga or Victorville locations.