Texting and driving causes almost as many accidents as drunk driving. According to a National Safety Council estimate, 341,000 car accidents in 2013 were caused by text messaging while driving. That breaks down to over 934 accidents a day. However the NSC says this estimate is low. There could be as many as 910,000 accidents a year, or over 2,493 accidents a day caused by texting and driving.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over 8 people are killed and 1,161 are injured in the United States each day in accidents caused by distracted driving, and of all distracted driving activities, driving while texting is the worst. When faced with these statistics we have to ask ourselves why people do it.
Are Certain Age Groups More Susceptible to Distracted Driving?
With all the information going around concerning talking to teenagers about the dangers of texting and driving, adults between the ages of 24 to 39 are by far the largest group of people who use their phones while driving. People tend to blame reckless behavior on teenagers, but where texting and driving is concerned young adults are the biggest culprits. A reason for this could be that experienced drivers feel so confident in their driving skill that they don’t think they’re taking a big risk. But according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, you take your eyes off the road an average of five seconds to send a text message. If you’re driving at 55 miles an hour, you will go the length of a football field without looking where you’re going in that length of time.[[iv] ] If you’re driving on the highway you are probably traveling at least ten miles faster than 55 mph. And driving in town, it’s hard to imagine drivers going even half the length of a football field with their eyes closed, yet many drivers do the equivalent frequently because they won’t stay off their phones.
California Texting and Driving Laws: A Slap on the Hand is Not Enough!
According to California Vehicle Code §23123.5 texting and driving is an infraction, not a crime, and carries a penalty of $20 for a first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses. This calls to mind the relatively lenient laws in effect a few decades ago regarding driving while intoxicated. The Mothers Against Drunk Driving movement worked hard to get people to take drunk driving seriously and increase the criminal penalties. Now that drinking and driving is less common and carries harsh criminal penalties, perhaps we should borrow the MADD acronym to campaign for Mothers Against Distracted Driving.
Texting and Driving Can Create Liability for an Accident
Despite the leniency of our current laws prohibiting texting while driving, if you cause an accident one of the first things the insurance company or the victim’s attorney will do is to subpoena your cell phone. Though the facts of each case are different, you could be held liable for causing or contributing to an accident if your cell records show that you were texting when an accident occurred.
In 2013 a New Jersey appeals court ruled that a third party can be held liable in certain situations for sending a text message to somebody who is driving when an accident occurs.[[v]]The ruling set a precedent that could cause courts around the country to crack down on those who contribute to distracted drivers and accidents.
Texting and driving is illegal in California and as such, negligent. California is a pure contributory negligence state.[[vi] ]What this means is that even if somebody else is mostly responsible for an accident, your damages will be reduced by the percentage of responsibility a court assigns to you for contributing to your own accident. If you are involved in a serious car wreck, even if you didn’t cause it, your compensation would be reduced if it was proven that you were texting when the crash occurred. If you suffer serious injuries in the accident this could prove to be disastrous for your finances if you are disabled and cannot work. This is just one more reason why texting while driving is a bad idea.
No Texting While Driving is the Only Responsible Behavior
There is absolutely no good reason why you need to use a cell phone while you’re driving a car. Even if you’re using a hands-free phone to talk, it’s distracting and you are increasing your chances of getting in a car wreck. Moreover, you are gambling with the lives of everybody else on the road as well as your own. Is it really worth the risk?
At Azizi Law, we see the tragedies that bad car accidents cause all the time. Because as personal injury lawyers we see the people hurt and killed and not just the numbers, we want to encourage you to do everything you possibly can to drive safely, including turning your phone off or getting one of the many apps available which block text messages while you’re driving.
You don’t owe it to anybody to engage in an electronic conversation while driving, and people will respect your choice to be unavailable to communicate while you are on the road. Regarding texting and driving, this is one behavior where you can be a leader and set a good example for others by driving safely. By doing so, you may inspire your friends and family to refrain from reckless driving and prevent a serious crash from occurring. Besides, you may find that you enjoy a break from the demands of your phone for a few minutes every day.