Understanding distracted driving risks doesn’t deter most CA drivers

A new survey shows that many drivers recognize the risks of texting but do it anyway, possibly due to beliefs that they personally can text safely.

Texting while driving is illegal in California, but it remains an alarmingly prevalent behavior. According to Distraction.gov, one survey suggests that one-quarter of all teenagers text every time that they drive. According to the same source, 20 percent of teens and 10 percent of parents have extended text conversations while driving. Besides putting themselves at greater risk of experiencing a car accident, these careless drivers endanger the lives of other road users.

In recent years, authorities and researchers have made extensive efforts to highlight the dangers of texting while driving. A new survey suggests that these measures have been successful. Unfortunately, an understanding of the risks that texting introduces may not stop many Sacramento drivers from engaging in the behavior.

Dangerous decisions

In late 2014, AT&T released the results of a survey of 1,000 adults between ages 16 and 65. According to NBC News, each respondent drove regularly and texted on a daily basis. The respondents expressed the following beliefs and attitudes about texting while driving:

  • An overwhelming 98 percent of the respondents said they understood the risks inherent to texting while driving.
  • Despite this, 75 percent of the respondents still engaged in the behavior, sometimes in violation of state laws.
  • Over 25 percent of the respondents admitted to texting while actually driving, rather than while stopped at traffic signals or signs.
  • More than 25 percent of the people who confessed to texting also believed they could safely multitask while driving.

This belief in multitasking ability may be especially harmful, since the brain cannot truly multitask. As the National Safety Council explains, the brain can only switch rapidly between mentally demanding tasks. This switching can create deficits in response time, visual processing and more, escalating the risk of accidents.

Unfortunately, many drivers may not fully understand these detrimental effects or see multitasking while driving as negligence. As the survey indicates, other drivers may recognize the risks of texting while still believing they personally can safely text and drive.

Distraction among California drivers

Driver reports indicate that distracted driving is a significant problem in California, despite the state's legal ban. In 2014, the state Office of Traffic Safety published the results of a 2013 survey. The survey shows that many drivers view texting and other forms of cellphone use as a significant risk.

According to 36 percent of respondents, drivers who text and talk on cellphones represent the biggest threat to safety. To 48 percent of respondents, texting is the worst distraction that a driver can engage in. Additionally, nearly 70 percent of respondents reported experiencing accidents or near-misses involving drivers who were using cellphones.

At the same time, these experiences or beliefs didn't appear to deter many respondents from texting. An alarming 45 percent of respondents admitted to making driving mistakes while using a cellphone. The number of participants who used cellphones and didn't report making mistakes was presumably even higher.

Recourse after negligent accidents

These findings indicate that texting while driving may remain a significant threat to California drivers, despite laws and safety campaigns. Anyone who has been harmed in an accident that a texting driver caused should consider consulting with an attorney. An attorney may be able to offer advice on a driver's legal options and possible next steps.

Keywords: distracted, driving, texting, accident