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California could see tougher penalties for texting and driving

Data from the California Office of Traffic Safety implicates distracted drivers in four out every five traffic accidents. On a national basis, over 2,000 people are killed annually in car accidents involving distracted driving. Driver inattention can be anything from eating or fumbling with the radio to trying to attend to children while driving. However, most attention and legislation is focused on the use of electronic devices while driving.

California lawmakers have tried to prevent car accidents caused by distracted drivers by enacting laws designed to curtail the handheld use of devices, limit the use of hands-free phones and completely ban messaging while driving. Current California law also prohibits drivers under 18-years-old from using any electronic device at any time, unless there is an emergency.

The law went into effect in 2017, and a violation is considered an infraction that is punishable by a small fine. A new law proposed by Sen. Josh Newman (D-Orange County) would implement increasingly larger fines for additional infractions, along with the addition of points to a motorist's driving record, which could result in higher insurance rates. The bill is supported by AAA of Northern California.

Unfortunately, even if the new law is passed, it is will be difficult for police or highway patrol officers to enforce. Moreover, it does little to compensate the victims of accidents caused by distracted driving. The only recourse a distracted driving victim has is to seek recompense through the court system. An attorney with experience handling distracted driving matters can attempt to help ensure that victims receive the compensation to which they are entitled.

Source: Capital Public Radio, "California could get tougher penalties for handling phones while driving under new bill," Chris Nichols, Feb. 12, 2018

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