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California clarifies distracted driving laws for novice drivers for 2014

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has routinely published findings noting the dangers of using cellphones while driving.
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    February 12, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Distracted driving has become a major focus area for car safety advocates in recent years. California has been in the forefront of recognizing the dangers of distracted driving and has numerous laws on the books regarding how and when a driver may use electronic devices while operating a vehicle. Unfortunately, distracted driving remains an issue throughout the state, especially for new drivers, and injuries and accidents caused by distracted driving continue to plague the state's roads.

That is why California passed Senate Bill 194 in 2013, which bans anyone under the age of 18 from using any kind of electronic wireless communications device to write, send or read an electronic text while driving. The ban became effective on January 1 of this year and includes the use of voice-activated devices such as the iPhone's "Siri." California's similar 2012 law did not specify that hands-free devices were also illegal for teens to use to text while driving.

The dangers are clear

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has routinely published findings over the last several years noting the dangers of talking on cellphones, texting while driving and otherwise engaging in distracting behaviors in the car. The NHTSA noted 421,000 people were injured in crashes in 2012 involving distracted driving nationally, an increase of 9 percent from the previous year.

One of the most recent studies, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, reiterated the danger distracted driving poses specifically to young drivers. Novice drivers, defined in this study as people with 19 or fewer months of driving experience, were over eight times more likely to be involved in an accident while dialing a cellphone. Even reaching for a cellphone or other object multiplied the chance of a crash eightfold. Drivers who sent or received texts while driving were 3.9 times more likely to crash and eating while driving increased the risk by a slightly lesser amount. Cynthia Harris of AAA told Sacramento's Capital Public Radio that "[a]nything that takes your eyes off the road is considered a distraction and therefore dangerous."

Drivers under 20 years old account for 6.4 percent of all U.S. drivers. Yet young drivers are responsible for 10 percent of all traffic deaths and 14 percent of all crashes that result in injury. According to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, 25 percent of teens currently text at least once every time they drive and 20 percent of teens have extended text conversations while driving.

Injured victims' rights

It is perhaps not surprising that teens living in today's connected world have difficulty ignoring texts and cellphones while driving. However, the danger distracted driving poses is very real and makes the roads much less safe for others. People who have been injured in a car accident involving a distracted driver are not without legal rights. Injured victims should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss their rights regarding compensation for lost wages, medical care and other expenses.

Article provided by San Francisco Car Accident Attorney

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