Here in Eureka we have recently seen a rash of car/pedestrian accidents caused by cell phone use. Vehicle Code §23123 (a) provides that “a person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking and is used in that manner while driving.”
In a very recent case, People of the State of California v. Spriggs (March 21, 2013) 154 Cal. Rptr. 3d 883, the court was asked to decide whether that law prohibited use of a map application while driving. In that matter Mr. Spriggs was cited for looking at a map on his cell phone while holding the phone in his hand. The court stated that the plain language of the statute led them to conclude that the “primary evil” sought to be avoided is the distraction the driver faces when using his or her hands to operate a phone and held that it was a violation. As the court stated: “That distraction is present whether the wireless phone is used as a telephone, a GPS navigator, a clock, or a device for sending text messages and e-mails.”
In April of last year the California Highway Patrol did a distracted driving sweep which resulted in 57,000 electronic distracted driving tickets. A similar campaign is being conducted this month. California drivers now consider cell phone use the number one menace on the road, followed closely by text messaging. Recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have indicated that driving while texting is actually six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent while traveling at 55 miles per hour to driving the length of an entire football field while blindfolded.
At this point the fine for texting while driving is only $159 for the first offense and $279 for subsequent convictions. But the human cost of injuring or killing someone while driving distracted far exceeds these minimal fines.
The bottom line is that texting, talking, or reading a map on a cell phone while driving is dangerous. Until persons realize what a danger they present everyone will simply have to be on the look out for those that are too distracted to drive safely.
If you are involved in an accident that involves texting or cell phone use please call Janssen Malloy LLP and we will be happy to assist you.