A recent observational study indicates that driver cell phone use in California increased more than 30 percent between 2014 and 2015.
Distracted driving has become a national epidemic, claiming an average of 9 lives and injuring about 1,153 people each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In California, two of the most prominent distracted driving behaviors, texting and talking on cell phones, have been outlawed for several years. Unfortunately, research suggests that people in San Francisco still face a high risk of distraction-related crashes because these risky habits are becoming more common.
High rates of distraction
The Sacramento Bee reports that earlier this year, observers from the California Office of Traffic Safety and UC Berkeley monitored drivers at 130 preselected sites over a period of several months. They found that 9.2 percent of the drivers were using handheld or hands-free cell phones. This represented a 36 percent increase from the number of drivers observed using cell phones during a similar study in 2014.
This uptick is especially alarming considering the fact that distracted driving has been a significant concern in California for several years. An OTS survey taken in 2013 indicates that almost 70 percent of respondents had experienced motor vehicle accidents or near misses involving distracted drivers. Additionally, over one-third of the respondents identified texting or talking on cell phones as the top roadway safety threat.
Addictive driver behaviors
The majority of the drivers observed in the recent study were violating state laws by using handheld cell phones. Unfortunately, research suggests that legal sanctions and other deterrents aren’t always enough to stop drivers from these dangerous behaviors. Many drivers exhibit hypocritical attitudes toward distracted driving or manage to rationalize their behavior.
According to Fox News, one survey from AT&T found that more than 90 percent of drivers understand that texting while driving is dangerous. However, nearly three-quarters do it anyway, and about 30 percent think they can do it safely. Researchers believe that the novel, stimulating nature of texting and other types of electronic communication may make cell phone use an almost addictive behavior for many of these drivers.
Legal but risky diversions
The recent study also found that over one-third of the observed drivers were using hands-free cell phones, which is currently legal in California. Unfortunately, research suggests that even these devices can still increase the risk of serious car accidents. According to the National Safety Council, hands-free devices create a cognitive diversion, which can cause all of the following driving performance impairments:
Delayed response times
Reduced activity in parts of the brain that play key roles during driving
Failure to process up to half of the immediate environment
Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe hands-free devices are completely safe to use while driving. These individuals may endanger others without even realizing that they are acting recklessly.
Seeking due recourse
When drivers in California engage in dangerous distractions, whether legal or not, they may be considered liable for any accidents and injuries that they cause. The state’s apparent uptick in distracted driving suggests that such accidents may affect many people this year. After obtaining medical attention, victims of these accidents may benefit from pursuing legal advice regarding their personal rights and potential remedies.