Texting. Something the majority of us do daily. In fact, most people text 10 times or more per day. Believe it or not, some of us think, what's the harm of doing it while driving?
Well, according to the Huffington Post, over 3,000 teenagers and young drivers die each year in car crashes caused by texting and driving. This is roughly 8 people killed each day and approximately 1,160 injuries in crashes. The problem is real and is exceeding the amount of drunk driving injuries and deaths.
And hands free texting? Is it safer? Well, maybe not. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute studied people driving a closed course under 3 conditions: texting by hand, while texting by voice and without texting at all. Turns out it makes absolutely no difference whether you text by hand or by voice. According to the study, "Response times were significantly delayed no matter what texting method is used." In each case, drivers who were texting took about twice as long to react as they did otherwise. They also spent less time watching the road, even when they were texting by voice.
So, what's the bottom line? California is way behind when it comes to distracted driving enforcement and penalties. A new bill is striving to change that, but before I get to that, let's get into comparisons of distracted driving penalties from other states.
For example, in Alaska, distracted driving is considered a misdemeanor offense. Drivers face fines up to $1,000, and, in some cases, up to 1 year jail time! Other states fines include:
What's the current fee in California? Hold onto your seats ... a mere $20 per offense. For most people, this is laughable and by no means a deterrent, even though when you do text, you put lives at risk including your own!
- Hawaii = $300, even for the 1st offense
- Indiana = $500 fine
- Iowa = $1,000 fine
- New Jersey = $400 fine
- Utah = $750, and in some cases, the possibility of jail time.
Recently, a new bill was introduced that will increase the penalty for using your cell phone behind the wheel in our state. As I just said, the base fine is $20/offense currently in CA. Compare that to littering fines which are $1,000 a piece. What is wrong with this picture?
Under this new bill, AB47, distracted driving or using your cell phone while driving would count as one violation point on your driver's license record. This is the same penalty for running a red light, while DUI and reckless driving gets you a 2-point violation on your record. For some perspective, 2 points on your record and you lose your good driver discount and your car insurance rates increase by 20-30%
The bill itself, if passed, will go into effect in 2021.
I feel like I'm getting on my soapbox here, but distracted driving shatters lives. You shouldn't text at all when driving. Your teenagers shouldn't. Everyone shouldn't. End of story. Obviously, we can do more to stop this epidemic, but maybe this bill is the next baby step to Californians taking their responsibility behind the wheel seriously. Let's hope.