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Driving along any California highway you’ll see people eating in their cars, applying make-up or just talking on their cell phones. These are all serious driver distractions and they are a major cause of personal injury accidents here in Orange County. In a recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, they conclude that 80% of crashes and 65% of near crashes happen within 3 seconds of some form of driver distraction. If you’re reaching for an object in your car, you are nine times more likely to be at risk for an accident.

Teens are more vulnerable to distractions than any other age group of drivers. Sadly two prominent high school teens here in Orange County, Jill Sabet and her boyfriend Jonathon Schulte, lost their lives as passengers riding to their prom due to a distracted driver. The driver of the car was sober and not speeding, but someone in the car asked her for a piece of gum. At that moment she looked away to reach for the pack of gum, she lost control of the vehicle and it flipped over. In a split second inexperience and distraction took the lives of two precious children.

Another huge distraction to drivers (and annoyance to driver around them) is cell phone use. That’s one of the main reasons a new law will take effect in a few weeks that will make the roads hopefully a little safer. On July 1, 2008, California’s new cell phone law takes effect and will make it a fine to operate a cell phone while driving without using “hands-free technology” such as Bluetooth or an earpiece device. First offense fines will start at only $20, but will rapidly increase for further violations. And, yes, these violations will go on your DMV record!
The above law is applicable to drivers over the age of 18 years. It is still illegal for drivers under 18 years old to use an electronic device of any type here in the state of California.

In addition to distractions happening within your car, there are plenty more attentions diversions happening outside your car. Accidents, construction, emergency vehicles, pedestrians, even sign twirlers can be a cause of motor vehicle accidents. Even “rubbernecking” near the scene of crash can double your chance of being in an accident yourself. However, a growing trend here in Orange County has got two cities proposing banning those obnoxious sign twirlers.
Two cities here in Orange County, Santa Ana and Orange, are considering permit limits to the businesses that use sign twirlers. Currently there are no regulations to advertising in this manner. The main concern cited by the city attorneys are the distraction to drivers and annoyances to pedestrians. However, there are serious concerns for driver safety and these cities are investigating their options.

Finally, it is easier said than done, but we as drivers do need to limit the amount of distractions that we have control over; drowsiness, loud music, cell phone use, eating and passenger attention. A little advance planning in our driving schedule could possibly avoid a serious accident.