Distracted Driving Awareness Month: An Annual California Tradition with Room for Improvement

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For years now, police in California have used April’s designation as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month as a platform to strictly enforce laws pertaining to cellphone usage at the wheel. But the Nagelberg Bernard Law Group stresses that the fear of getting caught for one month of the year cannot be the only deterrent to distracted drivers.

"...placing a focus solely on the month of April runs the risk of undercutting deterrence efforts for the remainder of the year."

Across the country, states are getting the word out that distracted driving will not and should not be tolerated. California is no different. The California Highway Patrol recently teamed with local police departments throughout the state to enact a zero tolerance enforcement campaign this past April which aimed to dissuade drivers from texting or talking on their cellphones.

These efforts should certainly be applauded, but could there be a downside when such stringent enforcement is only carried out for one month out of the year? Larry Nagelberg has seen the repercussions of distracted driving during all times of the year given his position as a Los Angeles automobile accident attorney, and he worries about what happens after April draws to a close.

“Citations were handed out in the tens of thousands two months ago as officers pulled over distracted drivers,” said Mr. Nagelberg. “But placing a focus solely on the month of April runs the risk of undercutting deterrence efforts for the remainder of the year.”

So what can be done? Educational institutions, lawmakers, and enforcement entities, explains Kirk Bernard, must insist upon carefully delineating the repercussions of texting and driving to both teenagers and adults.

“Certainly teenagers are the most susceptible to messages attempting to reinforce positive behavior,” said Mr. Bernard. “A new study from the CDC, though, suggests that adults actually text at the wheel at much higher rates than do their teenage sons and daughters. Educating adults has to become a priority.”

Research suggests there are multiple ways that distraction might be reduced on California roadways:

•Education- Public Service Announcements must strive to showcase the impact of texting and driving accidents. Attention must be paid to loss of both life and quality of life, as well as the financial burden placed on those whose texting leads to tragedy. A ticket looks relatively minor when stacked up against the compensation sought under the typical distracted driving personal injury lawsuit. Citizens must understand that when they text, they risk physical and financial ruin.

•Enforcement- One month is simply not enough. Proper application of the law is rendered impossible when drivers begin to view the month of April as a mere annoyance. The entire year must be dedicated to rooting out distracted drivers, and further investments should be made into promising pilot programs, such as recent experiments with high-setting enforcement vehicles and roving patrols. In Tennessee, troopers use a big rig to peer into vehicles that might contain a driver texting with the phone in his or her lap. Such tactics might bear fruit in California as well.

•Enactment- Not just of tougher laws, but of company policy. When commercial fleet owners and other business entities neglect to warn their own employees about the dangers of distracted driving, lives can be lost or altered irrevocably. If a commercial driver is found to be liable for an accident because his or her distracted driving proved deleterious, the entire company can be held responsible in a personal injury case.

As you can see, much work remains to be done. Regular citizens can do their part by petitioning lawmakers to push through ever tougher distracted driving legislation and by removing distracted driving from their daily lives. The habit can be broken via investment in a hands-free device or one of many apps that disable phone functions while a vehicle is in motion. And if you’re ever injured in a crash with a distracted driver, call an experienced personal injury attorney for a free consultation.

The Nagelberg Bernard Law Group has represented the victims of distracted driving since phones in cars had cords. For more than 30 years, they have seen firsthand the damage done when a split second distraction leads to a life-altering crash, and they fight for the rights of those victimized in such accidents. Their efforts have helped secure more than $400 million in compensation for clients. The firm is dedicated to making California roadways safer for all who travel.

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