Despite state laws, 9 percent of California drivers talk or text
Nine percent of California drivers talk or text on their cellphones while behind the wheel, according to a statewide study of motorists’ habits. That’s despite the fact that California laws ban texting while driving and talking on a handheld device while driving; however, drivers can talk on hands-free devices.
In a study commissioned by the California Office of Traffic Safety, researchers visited more than 130 intersections in 17 counties to observe whether drivers had a phone to an ear, were wearing a Bluetooth or headset device, were texting or doing something else with a handheld device, or were talking while holding a phone in a hand but not to an ear. The study was conducted in March 2011.
Of the 5,413 drivers observed across the state:
• 4.7 percent were talking into a visible Bluetooth or headset on the right ear.
• 2.7 percent were talking into a handheld phone, either at the ear or in a hand.
• 1.7 percent were texting or otherwise using a mobile device.
A similar nationwide survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2009 showed the same combined talking-and-texting rate of 9 percent.
California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow said the statewide study “shows how engrained the use of mobile devices has become. Even faced with laws, studies and stories of tragedy, too many are not able to put down their cellphones. We have to convince people of the dangers before they become the next heartbreaking story.”
During the first two weeks of March 2011, more than 20,000 California drivers were cited for texting or for using a handheld cellphone, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety.
In 2009, one-fifth of U.S. auto accidents involved distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.