Drivers Using Cellphones Busted Big Time in April, but They Are Hardly the Only Distracted Ones

Tuesday, May 28, 2013
(photo: mrjasonweaver, flickr)

If California drivers took the time to look up from their cellphones last month, they might have noticed they were being targeted by the California Highway Patrol and more than 250 local law enforcement agencies.

April was national “Distracted Driving Awareness Month” and 57,000 California drivers celebrated by earning a ticket for driving while handling a cellphone, according to the state Office of Traffic Safety (OTS).

That’s about 21,000 more scofflaws than in a normal month, but equal to last April’s eventful Awareness Month push to publicize the law. The fine for getting caught even checking your GPS in California is $162 for a first offense and $285 for subsequent offenses.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says that people who use hand-held devices while driving are four times more likely to have crashes that injure them. It is 23 times more dangerous for those text-messaging while driving.

But while most of the warnings about distracted driving focus on cellphones—and are the overwhelming subject of “distracted” fines—they are far from the only distractions.  Citing information from Erie Insurance and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, Property Casualty 360 spreads the blame for distracted driving to:

10. Smoking-related activities (finding them, lighting them and snuffing them out) are blamed in 1% of crash reports.

9. Moving objects, like pets or insects, also get the blame from law enforcement 1% of the time.

8. Other auto devices and controls, like mirror and seat adjustments, are in the 1% class.  

7. Audio and climate controls show up 2% of the time in police reports.

6. Eating and drinking, also 2%.

5. Reaching for a device that probably should have been left home, like headphones, 2%.

4. Gabbing to another person in the vehicle or just looking at them. Reportedly 5% of fatal crash reports note this.

3. Rubbernecking. Roadside attractions, like accidents, are cited in 7% of reports.

2. Cellphone use. Huh? It’s not #1 on the list? Even after being blamed in 12% of fatal crashes?

1. Lost in thought, or just generally distracted by life. An astounding 62% of accidents that involve distracted drivers are attributed to dreaminess. Perhaps future drug testing of drivers will give this number a bit more substance.

–Ken Broder  


To Learn More:

57,000 Distracted Driving Month Tickets in April; Cell Phone Usage Rate Down (Office of Traffic Safety) (pdf)

10 Deadliest Driving Distractions (Property Casualty 360)

State Court Toughens Hands-Free Driving Law that Is Often Ignored (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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