How is distracted driving evolving?

Technology often built into new vehicles may well be increasing distraction among drivers even though it does not require a driver’s hands to be taken off the wheel.

Over the past two decades, mobile phones have moved from being virtual luxuries to being virtual necessities for most people in California. As this has happened, the topic of distracted driving has garnered a lot of attention because many accidents have been attributed to a driver who was not paying attention to driving because they were talking on the phone or texting.

The dangers of distracted driving

The Sacramento Bee reported earlier this year that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that texting while driving is actually six times more dangerous than drunk driving. Unfortunately, the penalties associated with distracted driving have a long way to go to be even close to those associated with drunk driving.

Just this year, the California State Senate passed a bill that would add one point to a person's driver's license if they were found guilty of distracted driving. In contrast, convicted drunk drivers may well spend time in jail, lose their right to drive and pay high fines.

In California, any use of electronic devices is illegal by a driver who is 16 or 17 years old. Adults may use these devices in hands-free mode only. A single touch of a screen is allowed but that is all. This includes the manipulation of navigation systems as well as devices for communicating.

Understanding distracted driving

As explained by the AAA Exchange, distracted driving may include visual, cognitive and manual factors. This means that taking a person's eyes, minds or hands off the act of driving can all result in distraction that may increase the risk of an error or an accident. When more than one type of distraction is present, the risk may increase even more.

In one study, the focus was on technology built into many new cars. None of the systems included required manual use so any potential distractions were only visual or cognitive. The level of distraction associated with each system could have been low, moderate, high or very high.

Of the 40 systems reviewed, none fell into the low category meaning that they all produced a noticeable level of distraction for drivers. A total of 29 systems resulted in distractions that were of a high or a very high level. This means that cell phones themselves are no longer the only culprit when it comes to distracted driving.

Californians deserve to be safe

People in California should be able to get in their vehicles and trust that other drivers will take the act of driving seriously and operate their vehicles responsibly. Whether grooming, selecting music to listen to, picking up dropped items or talking on the phone, drivers should refrain from these activities when behind the wheel.

Anyone who is involved in a crash caused by a distracted driver should contact an attorney to discuss their options.