SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and local law enforcement is bringing attention to this major issue, not just in San Diego, but across the nation. The Auto Club is reminding drivers about the consequences of distraction behind the wheel as part of its campaign, "Don't Drive Intoxicated. Don't Drive Intexticated."
The Auto Club, the California Highway Patrol and local police departments came together Tuesday at the Waterfront Park to help a woman, who has been impacted twice by distracted driving, share her story.
Emani Lawrence, who lost her grandmother to a distracted driver in 2008, was also hit in 2021 by a food delivery driver who said she was distracted looking at the delivery app.
According to CHP, any time drivers take their eves off the road to look at or use a phone, they are driving blind. For example, looking down at a cell phone to read a text takes a driver's eyes off the road for an average of five seconds - at 35 mph, that is the equivalent of driving the length of a 300-foot football field without looking.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,142 people died in distracted-related crashes in the U.S. in 2020, accounting for 8.1% of all roadway fatalities. That's an average of nine people killed each day in crashes that are totally preventable. Additionally, another 400,000 people are injured each year in distracted-related crashes.
In California alone, 105 people died in distracted driving crashes in 2020 and 9,262 were seriously injured. However, NHTSA says the true numbers of deaths and injuries are likely much higher because distracted driving is often underreported or difficult to determine as the cause of a crash.
NHTSA says distracted driving is especially dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists. Non-drivers account for nearly one in five distracted driving deaths.
According to the Chula Vista Police Department, 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.