April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and police in California and across the country are making distracted drivers their focus. Last December the National Transportation Safety Board said that distracted driving accounted for more fatal crashes in the United States than deaths caused by drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The NTSB report came with a recommendation that all states immediately enact a complete ban on the use of handheld devices by drivers. Some states reacted positively, quickly pushing legislation through which completely or partially banned the use of these devices, but that is only part of the story.
Drivers do not need to be using a cell phone or updating their Facebook status to be distracted. Anyone who has ever traveled on a U.S. highway has likely been witness to other drivers doing such strange things as putting on make-up, shaving or even reading a newspaper. All of these things count as distracted driving and police are now focusing their attention on distractions which are less obvious.
All but 15 states now have some form of distracted driving law in place and fines vary from $50 to $150. Police in these states now have the authority to stop drivers who they see are distracted, either by cell phone or some other action. Before the new laws went into effect police had to actually witness someone driving in an erratic manner before they were permitted to stop them. Now, even if the driver is driving perfectly well, if they appear to engaged in an activity other than driving, police have the power, and the justification, to stop them and issue a citation.