Multi-taskers, beware. In honor of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, California will be cracking down on drivers that insist on texting or using their handheld cell phones while behind the wheel of their vehicles. This high visibility enforcement operation is being conducted by the California Office of Traffic Safety, California Highway Patrol, and more than 200 law enforcement agencies across the state. First time offenders will be fined $159. Repeat offenders will be smacked with a $279 penalty.
The point of the operation isn’t just to give tickets, though. It’s to spread the word about the dangers of driving while distracted and encourage offenders to change their behavior.
The personal injury lawyers at the Appel Law Firm LLP fully support this crackdown and the important message that sends to drivers in California. It’s time to truly acknowledge the terrible risks involved when we take our eyes away from the road for a few seconds to read a text or when we get so caught up in a phone conversation – hands-free or not –we become temporarily blind to what’s right in front of us.
In these few seconds of inattention, people can die. Real people like 2-year old Calli Ann Murray of Rohnert Park, California, a beautiful little girl who was killed as she crossed the street with her mom by a driver who admitted that she was texting at the time of the accident. Real people like 19-year old Eric Okerblom of Santa Maria who was struck from behind and killed by while riding his bike during his break from college. The driver had been texting at the time of the incident.
Calli and Eric are just two of the thousands of Americans that die each year because of distracted driving. In 2011, approximately 3,331 people died and 387,000 more were injured due to distracted driving. In 2010, distracted driving played a role in 18% of all injury-crashes in the U.S.
You can see videos, pictures and hear the stories of more people who have died through the actions of distracted drivers on www.distraction.gov, a website dedicated to educating people on the dangers of distracted driving.
We also encourage you to spread the word about the dangers of distracted driving and pledge to never drive distracted again. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Turn off your cell phone before you start driving – alert family, friend and colleagues that for safety reasons you won’t be answering your phone if you’re on the road.
- Enter your information in GPS before you start your journey. If you need to reset your GPS mid-journey, pull over to the side of the road to do so.
- If someone else is calling you while driving, ask them to call you later. Even if they’re lawfully using a hands-free cell, tell them you want them to be safe, so it’s best to chat another time.
- If you see someone else driving distracted when you’re a passenger, ask them not to. Remind them that drivers using cell phones are four times as likely to get in a crash…and that drivers who text have a delayed reaction equivalent to that of a driver with 0.8 alcohol blood level – the same as a drunk driver. (Source: California Office of Traffic Safety)
In the end, that phone call or text is just not worth a life. Not your own, not anyone else’s. Thanks for reading Slice of Appel PI today. We hope you continue to read and share our blog with others.