The increased prevalence of smart phones and in-vehicle technology over the past decade has created complicated legal issues in determining whether a driver was negligent in causing a car accident. While some of the existing statutes can be applied to this issue, it continues to be a dynamic, developing area of law.
California Distracted Driving Laws
Currently, California statutes prohibit all drivers from using a handheld mobile device while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers under eighteen years of age are further prohibited from using hands-free mobile devices while driving. A separate prohibits texting while driving. There are also exceptions to the ban on the handheld wireless devices while driving, which may be used:
- to make an emergency call to law enforcement, medical and fire services, or any other emergency agency,
- by those operating authorized emergency vehicles, and
- while driving on private property.
Several new California driving laws also went into effect on January 1, 2017. Among other things, these new laws ban motorists from using any feature on an electronic device which requires more than a single tap or swipe. (This does not apply to electronic systems installed in the vehicle by the manufacturer.)
All drivers also have a legal duty of care, which requires them to operate their motor vehicles as the “reasonably prudent driver” would in similar circumstances. Drivers who fail to do so are deemed to be negligent, and they are legally obligated to pay any losses (“legal damages”) which resulted from their negligent driving.
Per a recent law that went into effect in California this year, motorists are prohibited from using a cell phone, unless it is hands-free or voice-command only.
Why “Do Not Disturb” Features Are Not Enough to Shield a Driver From Liability
When a driver violates a wireless device law, this can be used as evidence that he or she was driving negligently. But , as our car accident attorneys can explain, this is not the only way in which a driver can be found to be negligent. Even if a driver uses a “do not disturb” feature on the phone, the technology can still distract him or her from driving safely. The very act of activating this feature can distract the driver from the road. Furthermore: the newest distracted driving allows the use of electronic devices installed in the vehicle by the manufacturer. In spite of this, a driver who allows himself to be distracted by that feature can be found negligent. Ultimately, it falls to individual driver to accept personal responsibility for driving safely, and not allowing him- or herself to become distracted by technology.
Distracted driving has become an increasingly prevalent public safety hazard in recent years. It causes many car accidents, and is responsible for a vast number of injuries and deaths on the roads of California every year. If you have been involved in a car accident in the San Fernando Valley, it is important to know what your legal rights are and how to protect them. Contact our office today to learn what an experienced California car accident attorney can do for you.