On July 1, 2008, two laws dealing with wireless phones went into effect. The first law (VC §23123) prohibited all drivers from using handheld wireless telephones while operating a vehicle. Motorist 18 years of age or older were able to use a "hands-free" device. The Second law (VC §23124) prohibited drivers under the age of 18 from using a wireless telephone or "hands-free" device while operating a vehicle. However, as of January 1, 2009, a new Wireless Communications Device Law went into effect that made it a violation to write, send, or read text-based communication on an electronic wireless communications device, such as a cellphone, when operating a motor vehicle.
It's been over two years since the new wireless law went into effect and nearly 475,000 tickets (by CHP alone) later; talking on the cellphone has become the number one concern for drivers in the State of California. The California Office of Traffic Safety conducted a survey that included 1,801 drivers (ages 18 and over) at different gas stations throughout Central, Northern and Southern California. Several questions were asked in regards to impaired driving, seat belts, distracted drivers, and traffic safety laws and campaign. The purpose of this survey is to help fine-tune their traffic safety programs, enforcement efforts and public education campaigns in order to insure that they are effective and on target with individual populations, and they found some alarming information. The biggest safety problem on California roadways were no longer speeding and/or aggressive drivers has been replaced by talking on a cell phone followed closely texting.
In your opinion, what are the biggest safety problems on California roadways?
Reply 2010 2011
Speeding/Aggressive Driving 21.5% 17.6%
Talking on cell phone 15.9% 20.3%
Bad Road Surfaces 11.4% 11.6%
Drunk Driving 10.1% 12.6%
Texting on cell phone 2.4% 18.5%
Internal Car Distractions 1.2% 3.8%
Other/Don't Know 37.5% 15.6%
In your opinion, what is the most serious distraction for drivers?
Reply 2010 2011
Cell Phone talking 61.9% 56.0%
Texting While Driving 12.7% 27.6%
Passengers in Car 3.3% 1.8%
Roadside Billboards 2.1% 1.3%
Eating While Driving 1.9% 1.2%
Adjusting Radio/Stereos 1.2% 0.7%
Personal Grooming 0.6% 0.9%
GPS/Navigation Systems 0.2% 0.5%
Other 19.2% 10.0
Although, the usage of cellphones has grown immensely over the past two years; it is unclear as to how many motor vehicle accidents it has caused. What is clear is that talking or texting behind the wheel can lead a person to cause a motor vehicle accident. CHP stated that they agreed that the No. 1 distraction was the use of cellphones. They have spotted and investigated drivers on the suspicion possible DUI; only to find out that the reason behind their reckless driving was a cellphone.
So before you decided to reach in to your pocket or purse to answer a call while you're behind the wheel of a motor vehicle just remember that it only takes a few seconds to change your life or the life of another. You may not gain a point on your driving record, have your insurance increase or total your vehicle. But you may actually lose your freedom and/or your life if not the life of another.