Federal lawmakers have made California a testing ground for strategies to deter distracted driving. According to the federal government website Distraction.gov, driving distractions cause more than 415,000 injuries per year or 18 percent of all car accident-related injuries. Further, 10 percent of all auto accident fatalities are attributed to distracted driving, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Because of the prevalence of inattentive driving in causing serious auto accidents, the U.S. Department of Transportation has agreed to grant $1.5 million to California as part of a pilot program to evaluate the impact of increased enforcement and public education campaigns.
The pilot program in California and Delaware was tested previously on a small scale in the cities of Hartford, Conn. and Syracuse, N.Y. Syracuse experienced a one-third reduction in texting messaging while texting and driving declined in Hartford by 72 percent.
Mobile phone use as negligence per se
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents involved in personal injury lawsuits. When a driver causes an auto accident in San Diego while texting or talking on a handheld cell phone, the driver’s conduct may be the basis for strict liability under the doctrine of negligence per se. This legal doctrine imposes strict liability for the violation of a traffic safety law that causes injury.
San Diego car accident attorney observes broad range of driver distractions
Ironically, California law does not prohibit hands free cell phone use so negligence per se does not apply in this context. However, studies have shown that making a call on a Bluetooth device is no safer than making a mobile phone call on a handheld phone. A report by the NTSB recently cited two independent studies reported in the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Medical Journal that each reached the conclusion that hands-free and hand-held cell phones pose comparable accident risks.
While the pilot program to reduce texting and driving is a positive step, it fails to address other forms of distracted driving including:
- Reading a book
- Eating or drinking
- Adjusting a radio
- Grooming or putting on makeup
- Watching multi-media
- Talking to passengers
The pilot program may reduce some mobile phone related driver distractions, but distracted driving remains a serious risk for vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians. If you are the victim of a collision caused by an inattentive driver, contact the San Diego distracted driving attorneys at Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire for a free consultation.