4 driving distractions that California laws do not address

While California does have a distracted driving statute in place, there are some behaviors that escape the law.

California has some of the strictest distracted driving laws on the books. The statute outlines the following:

  • No driver is permitted to text.
  • No driver is allowed to use a handheld device.
  • School bus drivers and novice drivers - or those younger than 18 - are not permitted to use cellphones at all.

There is good reason for these laws. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,477 people lost their lives due to distracted driving in 2015.

Unfortunately, cellphone use as outlined above is not the only factor that takes a driver's focus off the road. Here are several other dangerous behaviors that people engage in while behind the wheel:

1. Hands-free devices

Many people wrongly assume that using a hands-free device minimizes the distraction compared to using a handheld device. The issue is that there are multiple aspects of distraction: manual, visual and mental. Eliminating the device only reduces the manual distraction. A driver still has the mental and possibly visual distraction when using a hands-free device.

The National Safety Council points out that someone who is simply listening to a conversation on the phone has a brain that is processing moving images much less efficiently - up to one-third as efficiently as someone who is not distracted.

2. Passenger interaction

Believe it or not, simply having a conversation with someone else in the vehicle is distracting. This goes along the lines of what we mentioned above: There is still a cognitive distraction. The brain has to focus on something other than the task at hand.

3. Viewing something in or outside the vehicle

Brief glances at a billboard or at an infotainment system may seem harmless, but again, it is a visual and mental distraction. A number of car accidents arise due to the act of rubbernecking, that is, a driver trying to see something outside the vehicle.

4. Eating and grooming

Life moves quickly. Sometimes, too quickly. People may find that they need to eat or brush their hair in the car just to save a few precious minutes. However, doing so means that the driver is no longer focusing solely on driving. Eating, for example, means taking one or both hands off the wheel.

Obviously, there are no clear-cut laws that specifically address these behaviors. However, a law enforcement officer in California could cite a distraction in the event of a car accident. In any case, these examples clearly endanger people on the road. Anyone who has questions about this issue should speak with a personal injury attorney in California.