Personal Injury Attorneys at Freeman & Freeman Support Sacramento's Efforts to Reduce Distracted Driving

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Stan and Steven Freeman, California personal injury attorneys with decades of experience, say that State Bill 194 may lead to safer roads and greater compensation for victims of distracted drivers.

In addition to getting compensation from an insurance company for pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages and other losses, a victim of a distracted driver may also seek punitive damages.

Though California has some of the most stringent laws in the country designed to reduce distracted driving, a new law has created even more obstacles to teenager drivers tempted by electronic devices. Current law forbids California drivers from using electronic communication devices to talk, send or receive messages while they are driving. The only exception is if their device is equipped with hands-free technology. For drivers under 18, there are no exceptions: these drivers cannot use any electronic devices at all while operating a motor vehicle. This represents an effort to minimize distractions for these inexperienced drivers. Now Senate Bill 194, which was signed into law in October of 2013 and is now being enforced, goes even one step further.

"Laws that minimize distracted driving are absolutely crucial in this electronic-media saturated environment," Steven Freeman, of Freeman & Freeman, says. "As a personal injury lawyer for the last several decades, I have seen countless tragedies caused by distracted drivers. While these types of accidents have always occurred and distracted driving has always been illegal, the problem has gotten worse as a result of all the hand held electronic devices and wireless communication opportunities."

Because of the proliferation of wireless and touch screen devices and the integration of Internet connectivity within automobiles, last year California State Senator Cathleen Galgiani supported SB 194, which is meant to curb distracted driving even more aggressively than current law. Drivers 18 and under can be cited if they violate the new law by using any kind of wireless electronic device. Technologies such as Siri, Internet enabled devices and wireless technologies built into cars are all forbidden.

Stan Freeman says, "All drivers must be focused, completely, on the road. But young drivers, especially, must be discouraged from losing focus. Teen drivers are more likely to be involved in car accidents even without the threat of distraction from their iPad, cell phone, or dashboard GPS system. These devices just raise the chance of tragic collisions. These novice drivers must be reminded that their primary responsibility is safety. In addition to reminding teen drivers of their responsibilities, perhaps SB 194 will send a message to all drivers that distracted driving is very dangerous and can be deadly."

There is data to support Freeman's assertion. According to the US government's official distracted driving website, in 2012, approximately "421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, this was a nine percent increase from the estimated 387,000 people injured in 2011" and "11% of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted."

Stan Freeman continues by saying, "There is just no excuse for distracted driving. But for many young people, texting, searching the web, typing in directions, and relying on electronic devices is just so commonplace that they often have a lapse in judgment behind the wheel. Such lapses can lead to catastrophic injuries and even death. And because SB 194 is now being enforced, victims may be entitled to even more compensation if the distracted driver was violating the law."

Because drivers under 18 are forbidden from using any type of wireless electronic device while driving in California, if they cause an accident while engaging in such illegal activity, punitive damages may be available to victims. "Pedestrians, bicycle riders, motorcyclists, other car drivers...they are all put at risk by someone who does not take their driving privileges seriously. In addition to getting compensation from an insurance company for pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages and other losses, a victim of a distracted driver may also seek punitive damages. This sends a message to the driver, and others: their actions should be punished. If you have been the victim of a distracted driver, the law, and Freeman & Freeman, are on your side," Steven Freeman concludes.

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Brett Watson
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