Smartphones have become ubiquitous as people increasingly rely on their devices for communication, directions, and entertainment. Unfortunately, they are also a major distraction when it comes to our nation’s roadways.

Each year, more than 3,000 people nationwide are killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers, and hundreds of thousands are injured. Teens are at a significantly higher risk, with driver distraction causing more than 58 percent of all U.S. crashes involving teens. In California, a 2016 survey found that more than 54 percent of driver respondents had been hit or nearly hit by a motorist who was using a cell phone while driving. And yet, AAA Foundation’s Traffic Safety Culture Index reported that while many drivers recognize that distracted driving is dangerous, they admit to the behavior.

Cell phone use among pedestrians is also a growing problem. A new study warns that texting while walking is more likely to cause a crash than taking a phone call or listening to music.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the U.S. had the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities in 2018 (since 1990), 432 of which were in California. This raises the question – has pedestrian distraction (due to smartphone use) contributed to the increase in pedestrian fatalities?

Texting is especially dangerous on foot and behind the wheel, because it involves all three categories of distractions: visual, cognitive, and manual.

Avoiding Distractions

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) urges all Americans to put the phone down before getting behind the wheel, regardless of the stringency of their state’s distracted driving law. The NHTSA offers these tips for drivers:

  • If you need to send or read a text message, pull over and park your car in a safe location. Once you are off the road and parked, it is safe to text.
  • Give your passenger your phone to respond to calls or messages while you’re driving.
  • Activate your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature or set your phone out of reach until you arrive at your destination.

While California’s laws certainly help prevent vehicle crashes on California roads, it’s important to note that distracted driving is not limited to cell phone use. That’s why California law enforcement may also ticket people for other kinds of distracted driving – even those that are technically legal – if they are driving dangerously as a result.

The NHTSA is also gearing up for its 2020 “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign starting in April, which is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. This year, the strategy comes with high-visibility enforcement efforts to catch texting drivers and enforce distracted driving laws around the country.

Municipalities’ Road Safety Responsibilities

At the same time that motorists must drive safely to avoid pedestrians, municipalities must keep roads and sidewalks safe. At CaseyGerry, we’ve seen what happens when cities fail to do so. Our firm achieved a settlement on behalf of a client who was seriously injured after being hit by a car at a South Bay apartment complex. The firm filed a lawsuit against the City of National City as well as the driver who struck the client, arguing that the city created a dangerous condition when it failed to protect pedestrians at the precarious intersection where the collision happened.

When everyone does their part – drivers, cities, and pedestrians alike – we can all be part of the solution to reduce traffic fatalities. Check out CaseyGerry’s blog for more statistics, news stories, and cases involving pedestrian safety in California.

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