It’s almost here. Starting July 1, drivers distracted by cell phones will be slapped with tickets that could cost them up to $200 if you add court costs and penalties. But money aside, these new laws will help weed out distracted drivers, who are either talking on the phone without a hands-free device or using the phone in a way it that affects their driving.
There are two laws that will go into effect July 1. The first prohibits all drivers from using a handheld wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers 18 and older may use a hands-free device. Drivers under the age of 18 may not use a wireless telephone or hands-free device while operating a motor vehicle.
There is no question that these new laws will help remove some of the dangers caused by distracted drivers on our roadways. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 20 to 30 percent of auto accidents — about 1.8 million — in the United States are caused by driver distraction. These accidents result in 8,400 to 12,600 deaths, close to 1 million injuries and $40 billion in damages.
With the advent of cell phone technology, driver distraction has become an even greater problem on our highways. Nationwide, there are 195 million subscribers of wireless services. At least 50 percent are believed to use cell phones in their cars while driving. Several studies show that drivers using cell phones are four times more likely to be involved in a dangerous car accident.
Regrettably, the new laws do not prohibit adults from texting or touching their phones to make an outgoing call. A law that banned texting while driving for adults would have been advisable. One of our clients is a couple from Huntington Beach. Their teenage son was struck and killed on the way to school at a dangerous intersection by a driver who was reportedly texting while driving.
The new driving laws, which will go into effect July 1 are not perfect. But it is a start, and I see it as a positive first step towards reducing our driving distractions and making the streets safer for all of us.
Please visit the DMV Web site (http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/olin/07_olin/txt/07olin09.htm ) to read more about the new laws regarding cell phone usage.