Distracted driving is never worth the risk

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By Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center Health News Team 

Smartphones make it easy to stay connected with loved ones, keep up-to-date on local and national news, and provide hours of entertainment. But these devices pose a significant risk when you decide to check your phone while driving. 

By Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center Health News Team 

Smartphones make it easy to stay connected with loved ones, keep up-to-date on local and national news, and provide hours of entertainment. But these devices pose a significant risk when you decide to check your phone while driving. 

According to the National Safety Council, distracted driving—like texting while driving—caused more than 390,000 injuries in 2016, and more than 3,400 deaths. Here in San Diego, car accidents made up just over 1 percent of all emergency room admissions at Sharp HealthCare hospitals in 2015, down  a fraction from 2014.

Based on statistics provided by the San Diego and Chula Vista police departments in 2016, nearly 3,000 citations were reported in San Diego County for using a phone while driving. To help deter drivers from using their phone while behind the wheel, many states—including California—have passed laws forbidding the use. However, people still use their phones while driving, causing preventable car accidents.

“Drivers already face enough distractions inside the vehicles that include passengers, children, radio, GPS features, eating and more,” says Chula Vista police officer Brian Carter. “One less distraction from the use of a cell phone could save a life. Our community members need to focus on the task of driving before they try to do something else, like texting, in order to prevent a tragedy from occurring.”

Many of these accidents happen on the region’s most-traveled roads, including routes taken to work or school.

“There are big concerns about any kind of distractions while driving. Whether it is texting, doing your makeup or eating, these types of risks cause preventable accidents both inside and outside of the car,” explains Dr. Lynn Welling, chief medical officer and emergency medicine doctor at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. “We’re all comfortable driving in a car, particularly the same route every day. Doing it safely requires mindfulness, being engaged and aware of our surroundings so we are ready to react if needed.”

As cell phone use increases, so do the risks and chances of being involved in a car accident caused by distracted driving. Help prevent these accidents from happening and lead by example by putting your phone away when driving. 

This article features experts from Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.  For more health stories visit www.sharp.com/news.

The Law: AB 1785, Quirk, vehicles: use of wireless electronic devices

Existing law prohibits a person from driving a motor vehicle while using an electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication, as defined, unless the electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured, and is used, to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation, as specified. A violation of these provisions is an infraction.

This bill would instead prohibit a person from driving a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or a wireless electronic communication device, as defined. The bill would authorize a driver to operate a handheld wireless telephone or a wireless electronic communications device in a manner requiring the use of the driver’s hand only under specified conditions. By changing the definition of a crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement. This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.

A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or an electronic wireless communications device unless the wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation, and it is used in that manner while driving.

This section shall not apply to manufacturer-installed systems that are embedded in the vehicle.

A handheld wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device may be operated in a manner requiring the use of the driver’s hand while the driver is operating the vehicle only if both of the following conditions are satisfied:

The handheld wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is mounted on a vehicle’s windshield in the same manner a portable Global Positioning System (GPS) is mounted pursuant to paragraph (12) of subdivision (b) of Section 26708 or is mounted on or affixed to a vehicle’s dashboard or center console in a manner that does not hinder the driver’s view of the road.

The driver’s hand is used to activate or deactivate a feature or function of the handheld wireless telephone or wireless communications device with the motion of a single swipe or tap of the driver’s finger.

A violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a base fine of twenty dollars ($20) for a first offense and fifty dollars ($50) for each subsequent offense.

This section does not apply to an emergency services professional using an electronic wireless communications device while operating an authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in Section 165, in the course and scope of his or her duties.

For the purposes of this section, “electronic wireless communications device” includes, but is not limited to, a broadband personal communication device, a specialized mobile radio device, a handheld device or laptop computer with mobile data access, a pager, or a two-way messaging device.

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