BEVERLY HILLS—Law enforcement with the Beverly Hills Police Department announced in a news release that the month of April is Distracted Driver’s Awareness Month and officers will be actively looking for drivers who are violating the state’s hand’s free cell phone law.
Under current law, drivers are not allowed to hold a phone or electronic communications device while operating a vehicle. This includes talking, texting, or using an app. Using a handheld cell phone while driving is punishable by a fine. Violating the hands-free law for a second time within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense will result in a point being added to a driver’s record.
According to the 2022 California Statewide Public Opinion Survey, nearly 72 percent of drivers surveyed said that distracted driving because of texting was their biggest safety concern. In 2021, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) issued nearly 56,000 citations for distracted driving.
“Holding your phone and using it while driving is not only dangerous but also illegal,” said Beverly Hills Police Chief Mark G. Stainbrook. “Before starting the car, silence your phone or put it in the glove box, trunk, or back seat. Anywhere you can’t reach.”
If you have an important phone call, text, email, or are in a situation with other distractions, pull over to a safe parking spot. Other distractions can be eating, grooming, reaching for something that fell on the floor, putting on or taking off clothing, and talking with passengers or children in the back seat.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are three main types of distracted driving: visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distraction is when a driver takes their eyes off the road, manual is when a driver takes their hands off the wheel, and cognitive is when the driver takes their mind and attention off the road.
In the United States, over 3,100 people were killed and about 424,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2019, according to the CDC. About 1 in 5 of the people who died in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2019 were not in vehicles, they were walking, riding their bikes, or otherwise outside a vehicle.
Some groups are considered more at risk for distracted driving. In a 2019 survey, 39 percent of high school students who drove in the past 30 days texted or emailed while driving on at least one of those days. Texting or emailing while driving was more common among older students than younger students and more common among White students (44 percent) than Black (30 percent) or Hispanic students (35 percent) according to the same survey.
Students who texted or emailed while driving were also more likely to report other transportation risk behaviors. Those surveyed were more likely not to wear a seat belt, more likely to ride with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, and more likely to drive after drinking alcohol.
Among drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 who were involved in fatal crashes 9 percent were distracted at the time of the crash.
Vijay Dixit told the National Safety Council, “Parents, when your child gets a driver’s license …that is when your responsibility starts,” he said. “Your child’s life depends on you.” Dixit lost his 19 year-old daughter to distracted driving.
Even though some groups are considered more at risk than others, anyone can become a distracted driver.