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Distracted driving in California is one of the most significant causes of automobile accidents. Listening to music, eating or drinking, adjusting the vehicle’s many devices, and using cell phones fall under this category, but believe it or not, daydreaming is the cause of more than 62 percent of reported accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Using the cell phone is thought by many to be the deadliest kind of driving distraction. Although it causes millions in property damage and injuries, it trails daydreaming by nearly 50 percent of CHP investigated accidents. Perhaps that is due to California’s newest distracted driving law, which many think of as a ban on the use of hand-held communication devices while driving. Therefore, rather than tell the investigating officer they were using the phone, which they know would put them at-fault, they say something like, “I didn’t see the red light, I guess I must have been daydreaming.”

However, using a cell phone when driving is perilous and texting while driving is far worse than talking on the phone. Regardless of your degree of texting proficiency, taking your eyes off the road to text is deadly and illegal. If an investigating officer finds you at-fault (higher than 0 percent) for an accident, you could face civil liability amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you are caught driving distracted, beyond the fine, you can face severe financial consequences. Distracted driving affects everyone's safety.

The California Distracted Driving Law

In 2017, California created or amended the law for distracted driving. As per California Vehicle Code CVC 23123.5, Driving Offenses “A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or an electronic wireless communications device…” The law now states that the requirement does not apply to vehicle-installed systems or other hands-free methods of use, like a dashboard-mounted device operated with a single tap or swipe of the finger, such as a GPS or stereo.

California Insurance & NOTS Points

You could argue the use of earbuds or eating and drinking while driving should be okay; however, it is best to leave the argument to your lawyer and make sure you seek legal counsel if you face a distracted driving charge involving an accident in particular. Although the base fine is only $20 for the first offense and $50 for subsequent convictions and there are no NOTS or Negligent Operator Treatment System points, the fine after state and county penalties, surcharges, and fees are $150 and $200.

A traffic ticket lawyer will not only know better how to handle this violation of CVC 23123.5, but can conduct a private independent investigation of an accident. Not only are there concerns from possible civil suits, but your auto insurance will also substantially increase if the investigating officer finds you were responsible for the accident.

Let’s say you were 25 percent responsible. That means that someone else, environmental, or road conditions were 75 percent liable, you could still face an increase. Rather than simply paying the fine, consult an attorney to discuss your options.

Prevention of Distracted Driving

Get a dashboard mount if your vehicle is not equipped with an installed system, and place it where it is easily accessible while driving. This mounted phone will lessen the temptation to pick it up, which could cause an obstructed view of the road and get you a ticket. Plus, most mounts are now chargers as well.

The use of earbuds and headphone are legal only if it is inserted into your ear or covers one ear. The use of only one ear still allows the driver to be attentive to traffic noises.

Avoid anything that will distract your eyes from the road while driving: eating, drinking, talking with other passengers, and particular daydreaming. A missed red light could not only mean a near $500 fine, but an auto insurance increase of nearly $500 annually for three years.

Get Legal Counsel

The fines are only a small portion of the issue when it comes to getting charged with distracted driving, even for a cell phone ticket. The fine is lower than most states; however, if convicted, the implications to your maturity and responsibility level might come into question with your employer. Many employers check your driving record before consideration for an interview, particularly if you will be driving a company vehicle, and often do the same when an individual is competing for a promotion. Plus, there are multiple other possible repercussions such as civil suits, liability, increased insurance, and others. It is best to hire a traffic ticket attorney to handle any ticket.

Just picking up your phone to check your text messages or see who is calling could get you a ticket under the new law. You cannot hold the device while driving. If you must make a call or pick up your phone or other electronic devices, then it is best to pull to the side when it is safe to do so, do whatever needs to get done, and then continue driving. No call or text is worth risking your life.

Getting a ticket and even the fine may seem insignificant. However, it is best to consult with a traffic ticket attorney before paying the fine. The attorney will know what the repercussions are in your particular case.

Ask a Bakersfield, California, Traffic Ticket Attorney

Call Bigger & Harman, (661) 349-9300, when you have been charged or found at-fault for distracted driving during an accident investigation. Se habla Español (661) 349-9755. We protect the driving privileges of Central Valley drivers.

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