Should California make its 'distracted driver laws' more strict?

Social media. Texting. Playing music. Talking on the phone. Earphones. People in the car.

These are all issues able to cause distractions while driving and become a problem which can result in dangerous accidents.

Recently, a Stockton 18-year-old woman was booked in jail after driving under the influence while using Instagram Live which caused a crash that killed her 14-year-old sister and severely injured another 14-year-old teen, who were both in the back seat of the car.

The 18-year old, Obdulia Sanchez, was livestreaming while the crash occurred and she continued to record following the crash. On the video she made comments like:

"I killed my sister, but I don't care," Obdulia said in the video. "I killed my sister. I know I'm going to prison, but I don't care. I'm sorry baby. I'm a hold it down."

The teen who survived has said she blames social media for the wreck. Reaction from the viral video has caused an uproar and debates about phone use and other distractions while driving.

Across the country people are having these discussions, including in Seattle, Washington. Seattle is currently seeing a campaign with over 13,000 signatures signed, near its 15,000 goal, in hopes of rewriting new distracted driving laws, according to our sister station King 5.

A survey by the California Office of Traffic Safety states that in 2016 nearly 40 percent of California drivers admitted to making a mistake while talking on the phone and more than 44 percent of California drivers said texting while driving is the MOST serious distraction. Also, 10 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes under 20 years old were reported as distracted at the time.

Here's a few things to know about California's current distracted driver laws:

  • In hopes to stop distracting drivers, Assembly bill 1785 which went into effect on January 1, 2017 prohibits driving while holding a cell phone in your hand.
  • Using a cell phone hands-free or via a mounting device is legal. You cannot text, scroll or tap multiple times but you can single swipe or tap the screen to activate or deactivate a feature on your phone when it's mounted.
  • A violation of these rules is a base fine of $20 for the first offense and $50 for the second and subsequent offenses. Also, you can expect penalty assessments that may bring your total cost to more than three times the base fine amount.
  • Provisional drives under 18 years old cannot use a cell phone or other electronic devices by any means.
  • Though actions like eating, grooming, dogs in your lap or more may not be illegal, if a law enforcement officer sees that it could be potentially distracting enough to be a danger then you can be cited.

So, what do you think? Should the laws and punishments be stricter? Join the debate and comment below.

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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