A California appeals court reaffirmed the state’s commitment to cracking down on distracted drivers in a ruling handed down on Monday. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, the court found that cell phone use by drivers is a violation of the law, even if the driver is stopped at a traffic signal.
In the case at issue, the court upheld a fine levied against Carl Nelson who was ticketed for cell phone use while driving in Richmond in late 2009. Nelson contested the ticket, saying that the incident occurred at a stop light and that the law only applied to a car in motion. The court disagreed, finding that the intent and language of the law against handheld phone usage does cover vehicles momentarily stopped on the road, sending a message that distracted driving is a serious concern. The court did not rule on additional scenarios raised by the defense, such as placing a phone call when stuck for a long period of time due to an accident.
Before many other regions, California recognized the dangers posed by cell phone use. The California Vehicle Code section prohibiting the use of handheld telephones by all drivers went into effect in July 2008. Additional legislation effective January 2009 expanded the prohibition to texting while driving, including both reading and composing texts. Motorists under the age of 18 are also prohibited from using hands-free communication devices while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers over 18 are permitted to use hands-free phones as long as both ears are not covered by an earpiece. These rules are detailed in the Wireless Communications Device and Wireless Telephone Laws FAQs assembled by the Department of Motor Vehicles
It is important for local residents to remember that the problem of San Francisco distracted driving goes beyond just the use of cellular phones. In a recent report on the problem, the National Highway Traffic Administration) defined distracted driving as “a specific type of inattention that occurs when drivers divert their attention from the driving task to focus on some other activity instead.” This includes the use of communication devices as well as things like eating while driving, focusing on a child rather than the road, adjusting the radio or other devices and even daydreaming. All of these actions present a risk to the driver and to others on or near the roadway. The 2010 report indicated that, despite public awareness campaigns and legislation, the percentage of fatal crashes that involved distracted driving increased between 2005 and 2009. The study further showed that 20% of injuries and 16% of fatalities in car accidents involved distracted driving. Interestingly, 30-39 year-olds had the highest proportion of distracted driving fatalities involving cell phone use.
As experienced San Francisco car accident attorneys, the team at the Brod Law Firm sees too many cases where distracted driving leads to damage, injury, and even death. We are dedicated to helping victims of such accidents recover all the damages that the law allows and encourage those injured in a San Francisco auto accident involving cell phones or other distraction to contact us for legal support. We also believe in prevention. We are committed to supporting driver education to prevent these accidents from happening in our region, supporting law enforcement efforts to crack down on cell phone use by drivers. Ultimately, it is the driver who must take heed. All individual drivers must be aware of the danger that all forms of distracted driving pose and prevention is always better than trying to recover after a tragic accident.
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