If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, or anywhere in California for that matter, you’ll know that texting while driving is absolutely illegal. It’s been almost a decade since the first laws banning vehicular cell phone usage were put in place, and the resulting decrease in auto-related deaths is quite impressive. According to data from the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) at U.C. Berkeley, handheld cell phone driver deaths saw a 47 percent drop between the years of 2008 and 2012. Continuing in this safety-conscious vein, a few new cell phone laws implemented just this year have made it illegal for drivers to hold their cell phones in their hands for ANY reason, including using those addictive smartphone apps.
Law enforcement can and will pull drivers over for violating these cell phone laws. The base fine for a first violation is $20, while it’s $50 for any subsequent violations. You might be thinking that $20 or $50 for a ticket doesn’t sound too outrageous, but the risks of using your phone while driving are much, much greater. If you’re looking at your phone, you’re not watching the road, and out on the road, anything can happen in a split second. You could veer into another lane, a tire could blow on the truck in front of you, traffic could screech to a stop, and a million other possible dangerous scenarios. If you’re concentrating on your phone, you won’t be able to react fast enough to the things happening around you, and the results are often devastating. A few seconds can be the difference between life and death.
If you don’t believe us or think we’re just being over-dramatic, here are some eye-opening facts about texting or using your phone while driving. According to the National Safety Council, cell phone usage while driving causes 1.6 million crashes a year. If you text and drive, you are 23 times more likely to be involved in a car crash. Fiddling with your phone or scrolling through apps both increase the risk of an accident by three times. You may think a few seconds with your eyes off the road can’t do any harm, but crashes typically occur a mere three seconds after a driver becomes distracted. Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. To put this in perspective, that’s enough time to cover the length of an entire football field when driving 55mph. The scariest statistics involve fatalities. In 2013, the Department of Transportation reported that 3,154 people died and another 424,000 were injured in motor vehicle accidents caused by cell phone usage. Worst of all, teenagers are the ones most likely to be involved in these fatal crashes. In fact, 21 percent of all teenagers killed in car crashes each year were found to be using a cell phone at the time of the accident.
As sobering as these statistics are, there are many easy ways to avoid the likelihood of cell phone-caused crashes and fatalities. Bluetooth and other hands-free devices are very reasonably priced and can make it easy to communicate with others while you’re on the road. Many newer vehicles even have Bluetooth as an available feature, so talking with a hands-free device can be done very easily. Many phones also have a talk-to-text feature that will interpret your voice commands and send a text to whoever you like. However, the best and safest solution is to wait until you’re not driving to use your phone. If you absolutely have to send that highly important text message right this instant, just pull over to the side of the road to do so instead of playing Russian roulette with your life and the lives of others. Trust us, it’s just not worth the risk.
With the holidays upon us, the roads are more congested than ever before! Whether it be from frazzled shoppers not paying attention to the road or holiday partiers making the terrible, illegal decision to drink and drive, the holidays always bring about the absolute worst cases of distracted driving. If you’re someone who plans on partying during the holidays, have a designated driver, call a cab, take an Uber, or hop on BART. Moreover, if you’re not driving, you can text and use your phone to your heart’s content the entire ride home! If you’re traveling during the holidays, be patient, be courteous, and be conscious of everyone else on the road. Don’t be another statistic. Please don’t text and drive. From the Classic Autobody team to your family, we wish you all the safest and happiest of holidays!