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Distracted Driving Remains a Problem in U.S., California

Rates of distracted driving on America’s roadways surged in the 2000s, driven largely by the rise of the smartphone. And while state governments and national safety organizations have attempted to tackle the problem, an Oakland car accident lawyer says distracted driving remains a prevalent threat to American motorists.

National Distracted Driving Accident Statistics

The latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that distracted driving accidents could be on the decline but are still a large problem in the country. NHTSA reported that in 2016, a total of 3,450 people died in vehicle accidents related to driver distraction. This accounted for 9 percent of all fatal traffic accidents in 2016.

NHTSA further reported that 6 percent of all drivers involved in deadly traffic accidents in 2016 were distracted prior to the crashes. That figure included 9 percent of drivers age 15 to 19 years who were involved in fatal accidents. NHTSA said at the time that teen drivers were the most likely demographic to be involved in fatal distracted driving accidents.

The number of fatalities due to distracted driving decreased in 2017, with NHTSA reporting that 3,166 people were killed in distracted driving accidents that year. A total of 297 people died in vehicle accidents in 2017 that involved distracted teenage drivers.

Distracted Driving Trends in the U.S.

Distracted driving trends in the United States have closely followed patterns of cell phone use. According to an experienced car accident lawyer in Oakland, distracted driving includes more than just cell phone use (eating, talking to passengers, changing the radio), but the emergence of smartphones undoubtedly contributed to a population of inattentive drivers. The ways in which drivers are distracted seem to mirror the ways people use their phones.

For instance, in the early 2000s, as cell phones were becoming more common, a growing percentage of Americans were found to be holding cell phones while driving. Between 2006 and 2007, according to NHTSA, the rate of drivers holding cell phones while driving jumped from 4.8 percent to 6.2 percent.

Leading up to 2017, the rate of drivers holding cell phones has generally been trending down. In 2017, NHTSA reports it was 2.9 percent, which was by far the lowest since 2006. However, at the same time, the rate of drivers visibly manipulating their cell phones has been trending up. This rate was 0.4 percent of drivers in 2006 and 2.2 percent of drivers in 2014 and 2015.

The changes and trends in distracted driving coincide with a movement from phone calls to text messages and emails. Americans today use their phones more for texting, emailing, and browsing the internet than for phone calls.

California’s Laws Pertaining to Distracted Driving

As the rate and form of distracted driving changes, state governments have been attempting to pass new laws aimed at safety. California has had anti-distracted driving laws on the books for more than 10 years, and they have changed with time.

Under California law (current as of 2019), drivers cannot hold their cell phones for purposes of phone calls, text messages, or other activities. California drivers may only use their phones if they have hands-free technology that can be enabled or disabled with one button push. Mounted cell phones cannot obstruct drivers’ views.

In addition, California drivers under 18 years of age may not use cell phones at all, even with hands-free technology. Phone calls for emergency assistance are the only exception to California’s laws on cell phone use while driving.

If you suspect a distracted driver was responsible for your accident and subsequent injuries, call The Barnes Firm as soon as possible. We’ll put our best Oakland car accident lawyer on your case so you can be confident that we’ll help you get the best result possible.

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