Since 2008, shortly before California prohibited the use of cell phones while driving, the Automobile Club of Southern California has been conducting studies of cell phone use and texting among drivers passing through Orange County. Taking random samples of 4,000 each time, the Auto Club documented a 70% decline in texting while behind the wheel within just four months of the January 2009 ban. The numbers, however, steadily climbed, with the Auto Club recording nearly twice as many drivers texting by July 2010. Whereas 1.4% of motorists were observed texting in mid to late 2008, 2.7% were caught in the act last July.
In response to these accidents, California implemented a ban on texting-while-driving in January 2009. Prior to the ban, the Automobile Club of Southern California had been taking surveys of cell phone and texting use among drivers passing through Orange County. In mid to late 2008, the Auto Club observed that 1.4% of motorists, out of a sample of 4,000 vehicles, were text messaging. In May 2009, four months after the ban went into effect, the Auto Club recorded a 70% decline in this number to only 0.5% of drivers. However, by July 2010, the number of drivers texting had risen to 2.7%.
Over the years, numerous accidents resulting in injuries and fatalities have been attributed to distracted driving, with 515,000 injury cases and approximately 6,000 fatalities recorded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for 2008 alone. Throughout Orange County and Los Angeles, such accidents have received extensive coverage from the media: in August 2007 an impaired, texting motorist fatally collided with a 14-year-old boy in Huntington Beach; in August 2008, a texting driver struck and killed a pedestrian in a Newport Beach crosswalk; and just months ago celebrity plastic surgeon Frank Ryan was reportedly sending text messages moments before driving off a cliff to his death.
The Auto Club recommended increased public awareness of the dangers, more aggressive enforcement, and heavier penalties as a means of combating the risky activity.
Last August, Metrolink and its former train-operating contractor attempted to avoid a timely and costly trial by offering victims of the train accident a $200-million settlement. Whether they will accept the settlement or pursue a better one in court has yet to be resolved. The accident they endured was tragic and its cause unsettling to commuters everywhere-on highways, on railroads, and in the sky-as the death toll from texting-while-driving accidents has continued to rise in California.
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Article Added on Monday, September 27, 2010
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