California roads and highways can be a challenge for even the most experienced and focused driver, with tens of millions of commuters taking to the roadways daily. Long before the rise of smart phones and social media, California roads were a stressful and sometimes dangerous place to drive. Now, with many drivers checking and updating their social media platforms during their commute, the roadways are even more dangerous. Tragically, car accidents that result in injury and death are now often the result of one driver being distracted, and the culprit for the distraction is often the driver's cell phone. What are they doing on the cell phone that is so distracting? Checking social media.
California Law Prohibits Using Your Handheld Phone While Driving
It's not news that distracted driving causes hazards. As cell phones became more popular in the late 1990s, the California state legislature responded by making it illegal to use a handheld device while driving. At the time, use of a cell phone was limited almost entirely to talking on the device. Now, the capability of an average smartphone allows its user to engage in an endless list of distracting activities, from taking photos and videos, to trading stocks and playing video games.
Distracted Driving Causes Accidents
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 660,000 people use their handheld devices every day while driving. Many experts would argue the actual figure is exponentially higher than that. State and local laws are beginning to catch up to the bad habit, with many jurisdictions strictly enforcing laws prohibiting distracted driving. For example, in Orange County, California, police officers on motorcycles have been slowly driving between lanes during stopped traffic at intersections and checking to see who is on their phones. When the lights change and traffic begins to move again, they pull over the individual who was on their phone. Just because traffic is stopped does not mean you are legally allowed to check your cell phone. The law prohibiting cell phone use applies whether traffic is moving or not. New distracted driving laws are going into effect in California, but their efficacy is yet to be determined.
Instagram, Snapchat, and the Urge to Update
Especially prevalent among young drivers such as teenagers and college students is the urge to update social media while driving. Tragically, this often results in disastrous consequences such as serious injury and death. As if the possibility that your social media usage while driving might result in serious injury or death from a car accident you cause weren't enough, consider that your social media usage can be used against you as evidence of negligence while driving. If you are involved in a car accident in California that results in injury, the injured party's attorneys may subpoena access to your social media accounts. This means the injured person's attorney will know the content, and most importantly, the timing of your social media usage. This can allow their lawyers to easily connect the dots and prove that your social media use happened at the same time of the accident, thus proving your fault and liability for the injury or death. Sounds scary, right? Luckily, such a scenario is easy to avoid. Simply put, don't update or check your social media accounts while driving!
What You Can Do About It
First, change your own habits, if you're in the habit of checking your phone while you drive. This makes you safer, and it makes those around you safer as well. Second, if your loved ones use their phones while driving, talk to them about the very real consequences of using handheld devices while driving. If you are driving and see someone on their phone and driving in a dangerous or reckless manner, you can:
- Get their license plate information, if you can do so safely
- Make note of the make and model of their vehicle
- Pull over to a safe place, or have a passenger in your vehicle call the police
- Notify the police of this information. If the driver poses a hazard to others on the roadway, it is appropriate to call 911
Injured In a Crash Where The At Fault Driver Was on their Phone?
If you were injured in a car crash and think the at-fault driver was on his or her cell phone at the time of the incident, you should discuss the facts of the automobile accident with an attorney. If you or your passengers were injured, an injury attorney who practices personal injury in California will be able to make sure evidence regarding cell phone usage at the time of the accident is preserved, just in case it is needed later. For example, even if you saw the driver who hit you on their phone, if they deny it to their insurance, their insurance will take their insured's word, not yours.
The police are unlikely to make a determination, as the "he-said-she-said" scenario can be difficult for law enforcement to make accurate determinations as to what happened after the fact. However, an injury attorney that regularly handles California injury cases will send the appropriate letters and file the necessary paperwork to make sure they're able to access the cell phone and data records of the defendant. Also, if the distracted driver had their phone plugged into their car via USB cable at the time of the accident, the car's "black box" may have a record of the phone's usage, depending on the make and model of the car, and how long after the accident the information is pulled from the black box system.
California Distracted Driving Injury Questions
Wondering what to do following a California car accident where you suspect one of the drivers was on their phone? The Lions Injury Lawyers, P.C. practices personal injury law and represents injured clients throughout the state of California. A call to The Lions will put you on the phone with an actual injury attorney (not a salesperson), so you'll be able to ask questions to an experienced and knowledgable lawyer regarding the facts of your injury. If you were hurt in a crash and it was not your fault, the law entitles you to more than simply payment of your medical bills. The Lions make sure their clients are fairly compensated for lost wages, loss of consortium, changes in lifestyle (pain and suffering), and of course the costs related to medical treatment related to the crash. At the very least, a phone call to an experienced injury attorney regarding your California car accident will help you better navigate the often confusing world of injury settlements with auto insurance providers.