Sandra from the Upper Haight asks: “Chris, can you settle a matter for me? My best friend and I share a car. She is new to the City and constantly holds her phone while driving to check directions. When she is not doing that, she uses Spotify on her phone to listen to music through the car’s speakers. I love her dearly and don’t want her to cause or be in a crash. I have told her she can’t use the phone in her hand while driving. She claims it’s only illegal to hold the phone to talk or text. Is she right?”
Bao from Union City writes, “Chris, I got into a car accident last week and broke two ribs. My sister was with me and she suffered a concussion. The other driver ran a red light and hit us. I was driving my sister’s car which was totaled. I found out after the crash that my sister doesn’t have insurance. The agent for the driver who hit us says since the car was not insured he doesn’t have to pay for my injuries. I have my own car insurance policy. What should I do?”
Ten people were hurt, including two suffering life-threatening injuries, on Friday afternoon, December 16, 2016, when a car crashed into a MUNI bus stop in the 800 block of Stockton Street (near Sacramento Street).
Johanna from the Mission recently told me: “I saw a lady in a crosswalk get hit by a car recently. There were other people there who helped her get up and out of the street. She seemed hurt, but it did not seem life threatening, so I left. Now I feel bad that I did not give the lady my name and number to be a witness.”
Crashes Resulted In Man Falling From I-80 Highway Onto the Yolo Bypass
West Sacramento, CA (September 27, 2016) – Three crashes occurred between 2:33 a.m. and 2:45 a.m. on eastbound Interstate 80 along the Yolo Causeway, east of Webster Road and west of West Sacramento on Monday, September 26, 2016. The first collision involved a 2015 Ford Fusion that was stalled in the right lane after being involved in a fender-bender collision. There were no injuries with regard to the first crash. Afterward, the driver of the Ford and his female passenger got out of their vehicle and walked to the right shoulder of the road away from their vehicle. The Ford remained in the right lane of the road.
Car Accident Due To Driver Crossing Into Oncoming Traffic, CHP Investigating Car Crash
Brentwood, CA (September 26, 2016) – At 6:02 a.m. on Monday, September 26, 2016, a two car crash occurred at Marsh Creek Road and Deer Valley Road in an unincorporated portion of Brentwood.
Ashley from Rockridge asks: “Chris, last week I used the casual car pool to commute into the City. While moving slowly through the Bay Bridge maze, the driver took out his smartphone and typed in an address on a map application to get directions to a business. He then called the business holding the phone to his ear. I voiced my concern over his lack of attention to other cars in the maze. He didn’t take kindly to me expressing an opinion on the safety of his driving and claimed the law only prohibits texting while driving. Is that right?”
Ashley, the answer to your question is “no.”
Before discussing California law, even if what the driver did was legal, you were correct to voice your concerns. Distracted driving constitutes a serious, nationwide public safety issue. In 2013, 3,154 people, or nearly 10% of all people that died in vehicle crashes in the U.S. that year, were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver according to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis. The same year, 424,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, an almost 10% increase since 2011.
While everyone acknowledges the importance of attentive driving, most of us do not appreciate how dangerous it can be to take your eye off the road for even a few seconds. It takes 4.6 seconds to read or type the average text message. The California Office of Traffic Safety reports that just three seconds of driving at 65 mph is far enough to travel 100 yards, or the length of a football field. Most crashes happen with less than 2 seconds of reaction time.
Using a hands-free device such as the speakerphone, an earpiece or ear buds, or the car’s communications system, does not make driving safe. In fact, research shows that headset mobile phone use while driving is not substantially safer than hand-held use. When you are driving you need to have your eyes on the road, hands on wheel, and mind on driving. It’s a myth that drivers can multi-task well. There is no safe way to make a call while driving.
Turning back to your experience Ashley, three statutes in California govern mobile phone use while driving. First, no driver may write, send, or read text messages while behind the wheel. (Vehicle Code Section 23123.5.) The law creates an exception for devices that are “specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation to dictate, send, or listen to a text-based communication, and it is used in that manner while driving.” First responders are also given an exemption.
Second, California drivers may not use a mobile phone while driving unless the phone is “specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner driving” or used to make an emergency call to police, fire, or health care provider. (Vehicle Code Section 23123.) Finally, drivers under the age of 18 years, may not drive while using a mobile phone even it if is equipped with a hand-free service. (Vehicle Code Section 23124.)
Texting under the law requires communicating with another person using a text message, instant message, or electronic mail. Entering a number or name into a mobile device for the purpose of making or receiving a telephone is not considered texting. Thus, by accessing and using his map application, the driver’s conduct arguably did not violate the prohibition on texting.
Nor on the basis of a 2014 California appellate decision, People v. Spriggs, 224 Cal. App. 4th 150, did the driver violate Vehicle Code section 23123 by looking at the map. In Spriggs, the driver pulled out his smartphone to check a map application while stopped in heavy traffic and received a ticket for violating section 23123. The Court overturned the citation holding that section 23123 “does not prohibit all hand-held uses of a wireless telephone. Instead, it prohibits ‘listening and talking’ on the wireless telephone unless the telephone is used in a hands-free mode.”
However, Ashley, the driver of the car in which you were a passenger violated section 23123 when he called the business and had a conversation, not using any hands-free device.
I wish to reiterate, even if a particular use a mobile phone while driving is legal, such as accessing an application, it’s not worth it. Hundreds of thousands of serious injury crashes occur across America annually because drivers were distracted by phone calls, emails, texts, and increasingly social media and other applications on their mobile phones.
Louis Schaefer Killed By Large Flying Metal Part
Menlo Park, CA (September 19, 2016) – New evidence has emerged in the tragic death of Louis Schaefer, who was struck in the neck and killed by a bolt the size of a baseball when it smashed through his car windshield.
Family And Community Grieve Loss Of Elijah Dunn Killed By Alleged Drunk Driver
SAN RAMON, CA (September 13, 2016) – As the family and friends of a 3-year-old San Ramon boy killed by an apparent drunk driver grieves their loss, the community around them has rallied, the East Bay Times reports. A GoFundMe account has been established by friends of Elijah Dunn’s family. The fund was set up to help pay for living expenses and any loss of income the family may suffer after the tragedy.
This week’s question comes from Alex in San Bruno: “I want to buy a new car. What does ‘full insurance coverage’ mean?
Alex, thank you for your question. Buying automobile insurance unfortunately can be a time-consuming and confusing process. Minor traffic collisions are a financial drain and hassle. Major auto collisions can be financially and physically devastating. It’s vital that all drivers be fully insured. I am glad to help you understand what this means.