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Negligent distracted drivers took at least 3,450 lives across the U.S. in 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). By now, most states have recognized the seriousness of texting and driving and passed some form of distracted driving law. California is no exception. Although texting and driving is never a good idea, in some states and cities it can result in traffic citations and hefty fines – as well as liability for a resultant car accident. Here is what you need to know about texting and driving laws in Santa Ana, California.
Texting and driving kills. More than 44% of Californians believe texting and driving is the most serious form of driver distraction, according to a survey by the California Office of Traffic Safety. More than half of drivers surveyed (54%) said someone had hit them or nearly hit them while talking on a cell phone. National crash statistics found that something distracted at least 10% of drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal accidents – likely cellphones. Cellphone use behind the wheel triples the risk of getting into a crash.
Texting and driving is such a deadly form of driver distraction because it removes a driver’s eyes, hands, and thoughts from the road. A driver must look at the phone to read a message, touch the phone to text back, and think about the conversation instead of the driving task. It is one of the only forms of driver distraction that requires all three types of attention. The NHTSA states that reading or writing one text message (looking at a phone for five seconds) at 55 miles per hour is the equivalent of driving across a football field with your eyes closed.
Understanding the dangers of texting and driving is the first step toward preventing this deadly mistake. Not only could you cause serious injuries or death while texting and driving – but you could also face civil and criminal repercussions. On top of traffic fines, you may be liable for damages if you cause a collision. This could result in higher insurance premiums and a civil case against you. You could also face criminal charges, such as vehicular assault or manslaughter if you hurt someone while texting.
The state of California has one of the strictest universal cell phone bans in the country. California Vehicle Code Section 23123.5 states that no person shall drive a vehicle while holding and operating a handheld cell phone or other electronic communications device. This prohibits texting, scrolling, emailing, and even talking on handheld cell phones while driving anywhere in California – including in Santa Ana.
The only acceptable forms of cell phone use while driving are voice-operated and hands-free operations. The cell phone law does not apply to manufacturer-installed devices embedded in the vehicle. To operate a hands-free device, a driver must mount the device in the vehicle is the same way they mount GPS systems. The only time a driver’s hand can touch the device is to activate or deactivate hands-free features, with a single tap or swipe of the finger. Exceptions exist for making emergency phone calls to 911 or another emergency service agency.
Motorists under the age of 18 cannot use cell phones while driving in any manner – even hands-free use. The state’s handheld wireless phone law took effect July 1, 2008, while the texting and driving law took effect on January 1, 2009. The law is primary, meaning police officers don’t need any other reason to conduct at a traffic stop. Violating the statewide texting and driving ban can result in a fine of $20 for a first infraction and $50 for subsequent offenses, plus additional costs that can bring the fines to $159 and $279, minimum. Protect yourself and others. Put your phone down while driving.