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What Is Considered Distracted Driving in California?

Posted on May 17, 2024 in Car Accidents

Safe driving requires a motor vehicle driver’s full attention. If a driver looks away from the road even briefly, he or she may fail to notice a stopped car or crossing pedestrian. Every year, distracted drivers affect thousands of lives by causing serious and fatal car accidents. While most drivers recognize cell phones as a dangerous distraction, many other activities behind the wheel also constitute distracted driving.

CA's distracted driving laws

Cell Phone Use

Distracted driving is anything that takes a motor vehicle operator’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel and mind off the driving task. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 3,308 deaths due to distracted driving in 2022. Cell phone use is the deadliest form of distracted driving. In California, using a handheld electronic device while driving is against the law.

Cell phones are dangerous because they involve all three forms of driver distraction. According to the NHTSA, looking away from the road to read a single text message at 55 miles per hour is the equivalent of driving across a football field while blindfolded. Reading or writing a text, using an app, scrolling through music or social media, taking pictures, watching videos, and looking at maps are all dangerous examples of cell phone use while driving.

Eating or Drinking

Eating or drinking while driving is a dangerous form of distraction that increases the odds of getting into a car accident. These activities take at least one of the driver’s hands off of the steering wheel and likely the driver’s eyes away from the road, as well. This can negatively affect the driver’s ability to safely operate the vehicle and react appropriately to changing roadway situations.

Changing the Radio

Listening to the radio is a common activity while driving in California, but it should never interfere with a driver’s focus or abilities. A driver should be able to change the song or radio station without looking away from the road. 

Most modern vehicles have radio controls built into the steering wheel to prevent drivers from having to take their hands off the wheel or eyes off the road to adjust the music. Reaching for any object in a vehicle is dangerous.

Chatting With Passengers

Having passengers in a car can be distracting if a driver isn’t careful. This is especially true of young, inexperienced drivers. Engaging in conversations, turning to look at passengers or children in the back seat, dealing with pets in the car, or arguing with friends can all be distracting. Passengers diverting a driver’s attention away from driving safely can result in auto accidents.

Cognitive Distractions

A driver’s mental awareness should not be focused on anything except for the driving task. Navigating California’s roads safely and according to all applicable traffic laws requires a driver’s full focus. Daydreaming, thinking about a recent event or argument, experiencing strong emotions, and listening to a podcast or audiobook can all be mentally distracting for a driver – increasing the risk of crashing.

Injured in a Distracted Driving Crash? Get Legal Advice at Rose, Klein & Marias LLP

The consequences of distracted driving can be severe. All drivers in California must make an effort to put their cell phones away and avoid all other forms of distraction. If you get into a car accident with a driver you suspect was not paying attention to the road, consult with a car accident accident attorney in Los Angeles to request a free consultation about your legal rights.