Despite New Laws, California Among States on the Rise for Cell Phone Use While Driving

In the United States, over three thousand people are killed in distracted driving crashes, one of the leading causes being cell phone use. A recent study by Zendrive, a San Francisco-based startup, revealed that in spite of the fact that more laws banning cell phone use are becoming enacted, and despite that the population of U.S. drivers understands the added risk of crashing due to texting, more drivers than before are using their cell phones while on the road. This not only includes smaller streets, but highways with elevated speed limits.

What Exactly Does the Study Show?

The study, which monitored a whopping 7.1 miles of travel from December, 2017 through February, 2018, compared the results from the previous year finding that two out of three drivers used their phones at least once for an average of four minutes. These numbers increased 5% from last year. Despite the passing of fourteen new state laws banning its use, cell phones were used much more frequently, especially in California, Oregon, and Washington, although the worst states for distracted driving were Mississippi and Rhode Island, where drivers spent 8% of their time on their phones while driving. Unfortunately there is a fine line between making the roads safe for drivers and taking away those same drivers’ personal liberties.

Distracted Driver Litigation and Comparative Negligence

Fortunately for the public, it is easy to determine whether or not someone was on the phone at the time of an accident. This can have a huge negative impact in cases of negligence in which the defendant is proven to have been distracted. For accidents that lead to litigation, the negligence of each driver comes into question. In 1975, California began using a system of “pure comparative negligence.” Unlike the common law system of “contributory negligence,” which bans any recovery for someone who has been found to have some influence over the accident through his or her actions or inactions, pure comparative negligence does not prevent recovery, but limits it. During litigation, the judge or jury must assign a percentage of negligence to each party from one to 100 percent. In cases where only one person has done anything wrong, that person would be assigned 100 percent of the negligence. However, if it is determined that both parties are at fault on some level, the amount of fault must be decided for each. Comparative negligence makes the judge or jury allocate 100 percent of the fault between the two parties who are both somewhat at fault. The usage of a cell phone while driving can serve to greatly limit the amount of damages awarded to the plaintiff or can even find for the defendant. For example, a plaintiff whose damages are equal to $100,000 but is found liable for 30% of the damages due to distracted driving would only be awarded $70,000.

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself

Knowing the dangers of distracted driving, as well as the impact that it could have on your awarded damages due to pure comparative negligence, there is all the reason to avoid certain behaviors. Such behaviors include:

  • Texting while driving;
  • Talking on a cell phone;
  • Listening to loud music;
  • Applying cosmetics;
  • Consuming food or beverages;
  • Fatigue; and
  • Reading maps or other materials

If you have been involved in an accident, it is important to contact a lawyer sooner rather than later. At California Trial Law Group, our personal injury attorneys have years of experience handling a variety of pure comparative negligence cases. Some of these case types include:

Even if you have been in an accident but engaged in any of the aforementioned distracted behaviors, you may still be able to recover for damages. Call us today!

Posted in: Personal Injury