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With the explosion of newer, cheaper mobile technology, the rate at which cell phones are purchased now exceeds the amount of babies born in the United States every year. As a result, America has become ‘chatty.’ For a growing number of people, cars have now become their Mobile Phone Booth.

Recent studies are showing the increasing numbers of ‘car talkers’ present new dangers. It is now commonplace to witness drivers committing flagrant driving errors while engrossed in their cell phone conversations. In many ways the cell phone has changed the straightforward task of driving into a complex system of multi-tasking.
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The danger of car crashes caused by cell phone distraction has lead 48 countries and half of the United States to adopt legislation restricting the use of cellular telephones in automobiles. Most recently, the State of California launched a new campaign against “talking and driving” by passing Senate Bills 33 and 1613 (Cal. Vehicle Code §12810.3 and §23124). This blog will discuss the findings of some of these studies, as well as the implications of California’s new laws in an effort to keep you safe on the road.

A recent study by Harvard University found that 1 in 20 car accidents are caused by cell phones, resulting in 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries, annually. A University of Utah psychology professor found that “If you put a 20-year-old driver behind the wheel with a cell phone, their reaction times are the same as a 70-year-old driver who is not using a cell phone.” In 2004 and 2005, the California Highway Patrol found that talking on a cell phone was the leading cause of vehicular deaths due to driving inattention. The CHP study was the leading argument for the new protective driving laws in California.

Stay Within the Law

Effective July 1, 2008, no driver in California can use a handheld cellular telephone unless under extreme emergency circumstances. Drivers, 18 or older will only be allowed to use communication devices that are designed to allow “hands-free”. This includes cell phones with speakerphone, Bluetooth®, headset, and Push-To-Talk functions. If a driver is caught violating these exceptions, the fines are $20 for the first offense, and $50 for each subsequent offense. For minor drivers, cell phone communication in any form is entirely prohibited.

Though the law dramatically alters the manner with which cellular communications can be conducted while operating a motor vehicle, it still permits adult drivers to engage in behavior that diverts their undivided attention from the road. The personal injury lawyers at Reiner, Simpson & Slaughter have kept a watchful eye on the use of cell phones on the roadways of Northern California, and continue to hold those irresponsible few accountable for their carelessness.

Stay Safe

Reiner, Simpson & Slaughter would like to extend the following safety recommendations, introduced first by the State of New York Transportation Department, to you.

1.) Position your phone where it is easy to see and reach.
2.) Familiarize yourself with the phones’ operation while the car is parked.
3.) Use a voice-activated dial or speed dial when making calls.
4.) Pull over whenever possible during conversation.
5.) Never take notes while driving.
6.) Use voice mail to pick up your calls if it is inconvenient or unsafe to drive while talking.
7.) Never text message while driving.

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