What is the Definition of Distracted Driving?

distracted drivers

Distracted driving is the act of operating a motor vehicle while engaging in any activity that diverts the driver’s attention away from the road. This dangerous behavior significantly increases the risk of motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and fatalities on the road. Distracted driving can take various forms, such as texting and talking on the phone, eating, grooming, or using in-car entertainment systems while behind the wheel.

Essentially, any activity that compromises a driver’s focus on the road falls under the umbrella of distracted driving. If you were involved in a car accident caused by another driver, it’s essential to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you recover fair compensation.


Distracted Driving Among Young Drivers

Driver distraction is a serious concern in the United States. In 2021, distracted driving claimed the lives of 3,522 people. Young drivers, particularly teenagers, are more susceptible to driving distractions. Inexperience coupled with a higher tendency to engage in risky behaviors makes this demographic more prone to distracted driving crashes. Crash data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that there were 3,325 distracted teen drivers involved in fatal crashes.

Common distractions for young drivers include texting, talking on the phone, adjusting music, and interacting with passengers. It is crucial to address and educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving to instill responsible habits and contribute to overall road safety.


Types of Distractions

young drivers applying makeup behind the wheel

Understanding the different types of distractions is essential for addressing and preventing distracted driving crashes. Distractions can be broadly categorized into three main types:

Visual Distractions: Taking one’s eyes off the road, such as looking at a phone, reading, or interacting with in-car displays.

Manual Distractions: Removing hands from the steering wheel, like reaching for objects or eating.

Cognitive Distractions: Mental distractions that take the driver’s mind off driving, including daydreaming, engaging in deep conversations, or being preoccupied with thoughts unrelated to driving.


What are Common Distracted Driving Behaviors?

Even momentary visual distractions can lead to accidents, as drivers may miss critical information on the road, such as traffic signals, pedestrians, or other vehicles. Here are common types of distracted driving behaviors:

Cell Phone Use

Cell phone use is one of the most prevalent and dangerous forms of distracted driving. It includes activities like texting, talking on the phone, or using mobile apps while driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among drivers between the ages of 15-20, about 9% were distracted at the time of all fatal crashes across the United States. In a 2019 survey, it was found that 39% of high school students texted or emailed while driving at least one day within a month.

Vehicle Controls

Adjusting vehicle controls while driving, such as changing the radio station, adjusting the air conditioning, or programming the navigation system, can divert a driver’s attention. Drivers must minimize such distractions and prioritize safe driving practices.

Eating or Drinking

Consuming food and beverages while driving is a common yet hazardous form of distracted driving. Juggling food items or trying to take a sip from a drink can lead to manual and visual distractions, taking attention away from the road. To ensure safety, drivers should consume meals before driving or pull over to a safe location if they need to eat or drink.


Engaging in grooming activities while driving, such as applying makeup, combing hair, or adjusting clothing, poses a significant risk. These activities involve manual, visual, and cognitive distractions. Therefore, it’s crucial for drivers to address any personal grooming needs before getting behind the wheel.

Using GPS

While GPS navigation systems are valuable tools for drivers, interacting with them while driving can lead to distractions. Reading directions, inputting addresses, or adjusting settings on a GPS device diverts attention from the road. To minimize distractions, drivers should set up their navigation systems before starting their journey or use voice commands when possible.

Conversing with Passengers

Conversations with passengers can be both enjoyable and distracting. Engaging in deep or emotionally charged conversations may lead to cognitive distractions, impacting a driver’s ability to focus on the road. Drivers should aim to keep conversations light and, if needed, ask passengers for assistance with navigation or other tasks to maintain a safer driving environment.


Distracted Driving Laws in California

Distracted driving in California comes with severe consequences. The consequences of distracted driving in California include:

  • Monetary fines for distracted driving violations.
  • Distracted driving violations can result in higher insurance premiums.
  • Distracted driving offenses can lead to an accumulation of points on the person’s driving record, which may lead to license suspension for repeat offenders.


What is California’s Cell Phone Law?

In California, it is illegal to use your cell phone in your hand while driving. You can only use it in a hands-free manner, such as speakerphone or voice commands.

California law prohibits various activities involving cell phones while driving, including:

  • Texting: Writing, sending, or reading text messages while operating a vehicle is strictly prohibited.
  • Handheld Phone Use: Using a handheld mobile phone for talking or any other purpose is illegal while driving.
  • Drivers Under 18: All cell phone use, whether hands-free or handheld, is prohibited for drivers under the age of 18.

As of 2021, California has implemented stricter penalties for distracted driving offenses. Assembly Bill Number 47 was passed which specifies that a repeat electronic device violation occurring within 36 months of the last infraction is subject to a violation point against a driver’s record. Therefore, repeat violators could have their licenses suspended or revoked after a certain amount of points.


What Should I Do If I Was Hit by a Distracted Driver?

motor vehicle crash

Being involved in an accident caused by a distracted driver can be a traumatic experience. If you find yourself in this situation, follow these steps:

Get to Safety: Move to a safe, well-lit location if possible.

Seek Medical Attention: If you or others are injured, seek medical attention immediately. Your health is the top priority.

Document the Scene: Collect information about the accident, including the other driver’s details, vehicle information, and any relevant witness contacts. Take photos of the scene and damages.

Call the Police: Contact local law enforcement to report the accident. Provide a detailed account of what happened.

Do Not Admit Fault: Refrain from apologizing or making statements that could be used against you later.

Contact Your Insurance Company: Notify your insurer about the accident as soon as possible. Provide them with the collected information and follow their guidance on the claims process.

Consult with an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer: A personal injury attorney who specializes in car accident cases will protect your rights and help you recover fair compensation.


Contact a San Diego Car Crash Attorney Today

commercial drivers on highway

If you’ve been hit by a distracted driver and are facing physical, emotional, or financial challenges as a result, it’s crucial to consult with a San Diego car accident lawyer. A personal injury attorney specializing in distracted driving cases can help you navigate the claims process, pursue fair compensation for damages, and hold the responsible party liable. 

At Harbor Accident Lawyers we maintain a 99% success rate and have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients. Call our San Diego personal injury law office today to schedule a free consultation.