New Smartphone Law Cracks Down on Distracted Drivers

As Sacramento injury attorneys, Del Rio & Carichoff, P.C. has had the honor of protecting the rights of severely injured drivers and passengers all over the region. Below, we examine a new law intended to protect the public from its newest danger: distracted driving.

Distracted driving is perhaps one the most common bad behaviors drivers indulge in—but it’s also one of the most common causes of injury and death from car crashes. A massive study on the causes of car accidents from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that the most common cause of crashes, no matter the situation, was lack of observation.

Distracted Driving Statistics

More recent statistics focus on distracted drivers specifically: in 2013, there was a 10% increase in the amount of people injured by distracted driving at 424,000. That same year, distracted driving was a factor in 1 in 5 crashes that caused an injury. The current rate? Today, 9 people will die because of a distracted driver.  

Due to the serious threat that distracted driving poses to the public, California lawmakers have endeavored to deter cellphone use while driving. That effort has resulted laws like the 2008 law that forbids talking on or using a handheld wireless phone while driving. In 2009, lawmakers followed up with a law forbidding texting while driving.

The only exception to either one is if the driver was using a hands-free device (i.e. using an earpiece or didn’t need to look at the screen to operate it). It also didn’t apply to anything that wasn’t text-based communication, such as using GPS or music apps.

As of January 1st, 2017, a new distracted driving law changed all that.

The New Smartphone Rules for Drivers

Now, being “hands-free” or using non-texting apps is no longer enough for drivers. The new distracted driving law restricts the use of your phone for any reason while driving, specifically forbidding any use that isn’t completely hands-off. In order to comply with the law, drivers will need to mount their phone to the dashboard and use voice control while driving. No hand contact is allowed while driving.

The only exceptions to this law include:

  • Drivers who can turn GPS on/off with a single swipe or tap
  • Drivers using an installed system that’s a part of the vehicle
  • Emergency service professionals driving emergency vehicles

This law applies to any application, any situation, and any sort of hands-on contact. In order to continue using your phone’s navigation or other functions legally in the car, you’ll need to figure out how to control it by voice command—and you’ll need to buy a dashboard mount.

Penalties for Using Your Phone While Driving

Violating the distracted driving law is considered a traffic infraction, but it’s a zero-point offense—conviction will not affect your insurance premium. The base fine for a first violation is $20, with $50 fines for subsequent infractions.

Conclusion

As Sacramento personal injury attorneys, our firm is committed first and foremost to the good of our community. Distracted driving has already claimed so many lives—statistically, more people will die this year from distracted driving than died in 9/11. Our firm supports any legislation that encourages people to keep each other safe while behind the wheel.

As a final note, we urge you to buy yourself a dashboard phone mount as soon as possible to comply with the new law.

If you believe that distracted driving may have caused your injuries, you have more than just California law on your side—you have one the most successful personal injury law firms in Sacramento in your corner. Call Del Rio & Carichoff, P.C. at (916) 634-0324 for a free initial consultation on your case.

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