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Attorney Jared Pursley
Carlsbad Personal Injury LawyerBlogCar AccidentBreaking Down Distracted Driving Laws in California

Breaking Down Distracted Driving Laws in California


86 percent of motorists believe that distracted driving is moderately or seriously dangerous. Yet an almost equally-high percentage of motorists, 73 percent to be precise, admit they drive distracted. Distracted driving is an umbrella term for any behavior that prompts drivers to take their eyes off the road (visual distraction), a hand off the wheel (manual distraction), or their minds off driving (cognitive distraction).

Over the years, the California legislature has passed various laws to deal with this problem. Yet the problem clearly remains, since for many people, distracted driving is hard wired into the way they operate motor vehicles. When politicians cannot, or will not, protect people, a Carlsbad personal injury lawyer protects victims in court. Part of this protection includes obtaining compensation for their economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Hand-Held Devices

California has a reputation as a cutting-edge state. For example, California’s 1969 no-fault divorce law sparked a revolution that forever changed the face of the American family.

However, in the distracted driving area, California lawmakers were slow on the draw. They didn’t pass a hands-free law, even though many other states had done so, until about ten years after Apple unveiled the world’s first smartphone.

Now, law enforcement officers are usually anxious to enforce this law, especially if distracted driving causes a crash. If emergency responders issue a citation, a Carlsbad personal injury lawyer could use the negligence per se rule to obtain compensation for victims. This rule applies if:

  • A tortfeasor (negligent driver) breaks a safety law, and
  • That violation substantially causes injury.

Usually, however, emergency responders only issue these citations if the driver admitted s/he was using a device at the time. It’s usually illegal for officers to examine device use logs without the owner’s consent.

If there’s no citation, victims still have legal options, mostly the ordinary negligence doctrine. More on that below.

Wearable Devices

California might be ahead of the curve in this area. Even though smart eyeglasses and other wearable tech haven’t yet caught on, a California law already prohibits drivers from wearing them.

These citations normally don’t hold up in criminal court, because there’s not enough evidence to prove the driver was using the device at the time of the wreck.

But the outcome in criminal court doesn’t matter in this context. The negligence per se rule applies just the same. In a civil case, a civil jury decides all the facts, including whether or not a tortfeasor violated a safety law.

Non-Device Distraction

Device distraction gets most of the attention. Non-device distraction, like eating while driving, is much more common. California’s reckless driving law could apply in these situations, but distracted drivers don’t fit the law enforcement profile of aggressive drivers.

In these situations, an attorney uses circumstantial evidence to establish ordinary negligence, or a lack of care. The duty of care requires motorists to drive defensively and be at their best, mentally, physically, and otherwise. Distracted driving clearly violates this duty.

In ordinary negligence and negligence per se matters, a third party, like an employer, could be financially responsible for damages. These wrecks are especially common among ridesharing operators, who often over-rely on GPS navigation screens and hand-held devices.

Connect With a Thorough San Diego County Lawyer

Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Carlsbad, contact the Pursley Law Firm. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.



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