How Are CA Policyholders Affected by Distracted Drivers?
Easy access to emails, text messages, and phone calls has made it easier for California residents to communicate, but this same technology can also help cause serious accidents and increased insurance premiums for people behind the wheel. When motorists divert their attention away from the road, they are putting not only their own lives at risk but also the lives of everyone else in the surrounding area. For Golden State drivers, greater distractions translate into more accidents. And, as many drivers already know, car accidents also lead to higher insurance rates.
Violating California's hand-held wireless telephone laws while operating a motor vehicle alone will not leave a blemish on a driving record or lead to higher insurance costs, but being involved in an accident because of driver distraction will. A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes observed in the study involved driver distractions. If someone is found at-fault for an automobile accident because they weren't paying enough attention to the road, they could experience a surcharge, or even have their insurance canceled for a serious enough crash.
Californians Get Tens of Thousands of Cell-Phone Tickets per Month
In a nation of distracted drivers, people in the Golden State are some serious offenders.
In April 2012 alone the California Highway Patrol and over 260 local law enforcement agencies issued more than 57,000 tickets for driving while using a hand-held cell phone, according to a press release. Unfortunately, this number is up from 52,000 in April 2011.
More people than ever are taking the risk of using their cell phones for talking or texting despite state laws restricting the use of hand-held devices for all drivers in the Golden State. When drivers take these risks, the accident potential for everyone in the state goes up, resulting in steeper insurance premiums. Luckily, local and federal governments are working hard to raise awareness of these dangerous habits.
Taking Steps to Decrease Accident Frequency
California is home to more than 23.5 million licensed drivers, which is more than any other state. Consequently, this also makes CA a perfect candidate for U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving." This program is designed to decrease the estimated 3,000 annual deaths nationwide caused by distracted motorists by raising awareness. This program has been extended to the Golden State in the form of $1.5 million grant that will be used to fund the Department's "Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other" campaign.
The money provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation will be used to determine whether or not increased law enforcement and extensive media coverage can significantly reduce the number of motorists who use cell phones while behind the wheel. For now, this program will be centrally located in Sacramento Valley, but effects could be felt statewide by residents.
Similar programs in Hartford, Conn., and Syracuse, N.Y., have seen dramatic decreases in the number of people who text while driving. The NHTSA said that pilots programs launched there in 2011 saw a 72 percent drop in distracted driving in Hartford and a 32 percent drop in Syracuse. If similarly effective, residents in the Golden State can expect to see fewer accidents, which will hopefully lead to cheaper California insurance for motorists across the state.