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What is Considered Distracted Driving in California?

Driving requires your full attention at all times. Even a momentary lapse in concentration can lead to devastating consequences on the road. In California, distracted driving is a serious offense with significant legal ramifications. It is crucial to understand what constitutes distracted driving and how to avoid it to keep yourself and others safe on the roads. At the Personal Injury Legal Group, we can help you if you have been injured due to a distracted driver.

What is Considered Distracted Driving in CA

Defining Distracted Driving

Distracted driving refers to any activity that diverts your attention from the task of operating a vehicle safely. It includes actions that take your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off the driving task. Distracted driving can be categorized into three main types:

  • Visual distractions: Anything that causes you to take your eyes off the road such as looking at a navigation system, reading a text message, or adjusting the radio.
  • Manual distractions: Activities that require you to remove your hands from the steering wheel, like eating, drinking, or adjusting controls.
  • Cognitive distractions: Mental distractions that divert your mind from the driving task, like engaging in intense conversations, daydreaming, or being preoccupied with personal issues.

Common Examples of Distracted Driving in California

In California, several activities are explicitly prohibited or regulated due to their potential to cause distracted driving. Here are some common examples:

  • Texting and driving: It is illegal in California for drivers of all ages to text, email, or use a handheld wireless device while operating a motor vehicle. This includes reading or writing text messages, browsing the internet, or using apps on a handheld device.
  • Handheld cell phone use: California law prohibits all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. Drivers must use a hands-free device or a built-in voice-operated system if they need to make or receive calls.
  • Eating and drinking: While not explicitly prohibited, eating or drinking while driving can be considered a distraction and may lead to a citation if it causes the driver to operate the vehicle in an unsafe manner.
  • Grooming: Applying makeup, combing hair, or engaging in other grooming activities while driving can be a visual and manual distraction, potentially leading to a citation or accident.
  • Adjusting vehicle controls: Fiddling with the radio, navigation system, or other vehicle controls can divert your attention from the road and may be considered a distraction.
  • Interacting with passengers: Engaging in intense conversations or interactions with passengers, especially young children, can be a cognitive distraction and impair your ability to focus on driving.

Fines and Penalties of Distracted Driving in California

Distracted driving is a serious offense in California and the consequences can be severe. Here are some potential penalties and legal implications:

  • Traffic citations: If caught engaging in distracted driving behaviors, you may receive a traffic citation. The base fine for a first offense is $20, but additional penalties and assessments can bring the total cost to around $200 or more.
  • Increased insurance rates: Distracted driving violations can result in higher insurance premiums, as insurance companies view these behaviors as a significant risk factor for accidents.
  • Negligence in accident cases: If you cause an accident while engaging in distracted driving, you may be found negligent and liable for any resulting injuries or damages.
  • Criminal charges: In cases where distracted driving leads to serious injury or death, you could face criminal charges, like vehicular manslaughter or reckless driving which carries significant fines and potential jail time.

Preventing Distracted Driving

To avoid the dangers and legal consequences of distracted driving, it is essential to adopt safe driving habits. Here are some tips to help you stay focused on the road:

  • Put away your phone: Before starting your journey, silence your phone, put it in a secure location (like the glove compartment or a purse), and avoid the temptation to check it while driving.
  • Set up hands-free features: If you need to make or receive calls, set up a hands-free system or use your vehicle’s built-in voice commands.
  • Prepare for your journey: Adjust your mirrors, climate controls, and audio settings before you start driving to minimize distractions on the road.
  • Avoid eating or drinking: If possible, refrain from consuming food or beverages while driving. If you must do so, pull over to a safe location.
  • Ask passengers for help: If you need to adjust navigation or change a setting, ask a passenger to assist you instead of doing it yourself while driving.

Personal Injury Legal Group Is Here for You

The Personal Injury Legal Group, a personal injury law firm in Los Angeles, is committed to helping victims of distracted driving accidents. If you have been injured by a distracted driver, contact us today for legal consultation.

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