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On distracted driving, and what it means in California

You probably don't think about the total number of text messages that are sent in the United States and its territories every month, but the figure is staggering. According to a study based on data as of Dec. 2013, roughly 153.3 billion texts are sent per month. That's an incredible number. How many of those texts are sent while someone is behind the wheel of a motor vehicle? No one knows for sure, but its a significant number, given some other figures.

The crazy thing is, distracted driving isn't just limited to texting while driving. Cellphone use, in general, is a form of distracted driving. Using a GPS device is a form of distracted driving. Arguing with a friend in the backseat; flipping through the radio stations; eating some fast food or grooming yourself in the rearview mirror; these are all examples of distracted driving too.

Distracted driving, in all of these forms, is responsible for 3,154 deaths and 424,000 injuries every year (per 2013 data). Younger drivers also make up a significant portion of distracted driving. About 27 percent of distracted drivers in fatal crashes were in their 20s.

So what does all this mean for Californians? Well, besides the obvious -- you should be entirely focused on the road when you're in the driver's seat -- it is important to realize there are some serious consequences that go along with being a distracted driver. California law bans all drivers from texting while driving and from using a handheld device while driving, and these are both primary offenses.

The consequences are even worse for those distracted drivers that are involved in a wreck. These people can be sued and held liable in civil court for their negligence.

Source: Distraction.gov, "Facts and Statistics," Accessed July 22, 2015

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