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Makes Sense? Or Senseless? Distracted Driving Penalties in California

Monday, March 20, 2017By Richard Alexander

Distracted driving and impaired driving rank among the top causes of crashes in the U.S. Both are illegal under California law. But have you ever noticed that even though they are both deadly, their penalties are very different?

The Centers for Disease Control report that distracted driving is involved in about 18 percent of traffic deaths each year. By comparison, the Centers for Disease Control report that impaired driving causes about 31 percent of traffic deaths annually. Therefore, both distracted driving and impaired driving play a major role in causing or contributing to U.S. traffic fatalities. Both are undeniably avoidable and dangerous behaviors.

In fact, at least two studies demonstrated that drivers using cell phones are more dangerous than impaired drivers. In 2006, the University of Utah took baseline measurements of adult drivers, then compared those baseline results with the same drivers using their phones and driving impaired. The results showed that even when they were using hands-free devices, the cell phone users were more dangerous.

Similarly, the Transport Research Laboratory demonstrated that texters present more of a danger than drivers impaired by alcohol or cannabis. The response times of texters was reduced by 35 percent. In comparison, alcohol users’ reaction times were reduced by 12 percent and cannabis users by 21 percent.

Despite all of this, many states do not penalize impaired driving and distracted driving similarly.

For example, California impaired driving laws are particularly stiff. A first offense carries a jail term of up to six months and fines and fees of up to $3,600. Later offenses top out at license suspensions of up to four years, 16 months in prison, and fines and fees of up to $18,000.

In contrast, California’s distracted driving penalties are relatively light. Cell phone use is illegal while driving (unless mounted properly and only a single swipe is used). However, violating the law is treated as an infraction and penalties are less than $100.

Both of these behaviors are deadly, and offenders should be penalized similarly.

No one wants to be in a car crash no matter what the cause. Unfortunately, accidents sometimes occur. If you need the advice of an experienced accident lawyer, contact the San Francisco personal injury attorneys at Alexander Law Group, LLP right away at 888.777.1776. Call today, as delay may harm your case.

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