Jail Time For Distracted Driving? How Does California Punish Car Drivers For Texting And Talking On The Phone?

August 4, 2018
On behalf of The Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg Posted in Car Accident

The problem of distracted driving can no longer be ignored or overlooked, and Oregon knows it better than any other state. While other states, including California, punish motorists for distracted driving with insignificant fines, Oregon has recently introduced jail time as a possible penalty for distracted driving.

It might sound shocking considering that getting caught texting or talking on the phone while driving can cost drivers in California only $20 for a first offense. In Alaska, motorists caught texting or calling while operating a vehicle face a fine of up to $10,000. “But jail time? Seriously?” you may think.

Initially, we asked the same question ourselves, but then we thought, “Well, how big of a problem distracted driving really is? How many motorists, passengers, and pedestrians are killed and injured on the roads of California just because someone decided to send some unimportant message while driving?”

Our Los Angeles car wreck attorney at the Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg explains that distracted driving becomes one of the leading causes of car crashes in California and all across the U.S.

How common is distracted driving?

Statistics show that nearly 10 percent of all traffic fatalities are caused by distracted driving, yet nearly 90 percent of all drivers believe that distracted driving is on the rise and that it is more common than other causes of car accidents such as drunk driving and aggressive driving.

Interestingly, anonymous surveys have shown that the percentage of motorists who admit to talking on the phone while driving has jumped more than 45 percent over the past 5 years. Nearly 35 percent admit to sending text messages, emails, or Facebook messages while operating a vehicle.

Fact: Studies have shown that drivers who talk on a handheld phone while driving are up to four times more likely to get into a car accident, while those who send text messages behind the wheel are up to eight times more likely to crash.

Penalties for distracted driving in Oregon vs California

Beginning on July 1, a law introduced new penalties for distracted driving in the state of Oregon. State lawmakers have raised the penalties for distracted driving with each offense, culminating in possible jail time. If you have been caught talking on the phone or sending text messages in Oregon, but you did not cause a car accident, a first offense may result in a fine of up to $1,000. For a second such offense or first offense that contributed to a car crash in Oregon, your fine may reach up to $2,000. For the third offense within 10 years, you may face a fine of up to $2,500 in addition to a jail sentence of up to six months.

The new law made Oregon the second harshest state in terms of penalties for distracted driving. In Utah, if distracted driving resulted in a car crash, the distracted motorist may face a license suspension and 90 days in jail for a first offense.

But what about California? Compared to Utah or even Oregon, California laws are quite distracted driving-friendly when it comes to imposing penalties. For a first offense and second offense, you will face a base fine of $20 and $50, respectively. Our Los Angeles car wreck lawyer says that because California’s laws do not impose harsher penalties for distracted driving, the occurrence of car crashes caused by drivers distracted by their phones continues to increase dramatically.

“So what should I do if I have been injured in a car accident caused by distracted driving?” you may be wondering. Your best bet is to consult with experienced lawyers at the Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg to find out what legal options are available in your particular case. Call our offices at 310-997-0904 or fill out this contact form for a free case evaluation.


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