Health

It Takes This Long on Your Phone to Lose Control of Your Car

California law prohibits hands on a phone while driving

After her 19-year-old cousin was killed by a texting driver, Lupe Nambo, of Midtown, California, sets her phone to “do not disturb” when driving, so she is not tempted to grab the phone for any reason. She hopes a new law prohibiting hands-on use of a phone, going into effect Sunday in California, causes less smartphone use among the distracted drivers she sees on the road.

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“No matter how much people say they can multitask, it is hard to focus on two things at the same time,” Nambo told the Sacramento Bee. “It is a big distraction.”

Simply talking on a cellphone gives drivers the reflexes of an intoxicated person. Experts say 2 seconds is enough to put a deadly accident in motion, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says taking your eyes off the road for 5 seconds, while traveling at 55 mph, equates to driving the length of a football field blind.

Two seconds is enough to put a deadly accident in motion.

The new California law (AB 1785) prohibits even holding a phone while driving and limits drivers to one single swipe to turn off a feature if the phone is attached to the dashboard.

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The law serves to close the loopholes in existing cellphone use laws. Forty-six states prohibit text messaging while driving, but drivers today use their phones for other features, like posting social media updates, taking pictures and video, scrolling through long playlists of music — and sending messages, getting directions, and accessing vital information.

It’s no wonder inattentive driving is an everyday occurrence, especially among young, technology-driven people. For drivers under age 18, 38 states prohibit all use of cellphones, and two additional ones prohibit texting.

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Enforcement of new and old laws is another story.

Despite existing laws in many states, it is still estimated that 80 percent of car crashes are caused by distracted driving. The number might be higher, since it is sometimes impossible to tell after a crash if distraction played a part in the incident. Traffic enforcement officers may have to pay more attention to distracted drivers and less to speeding drivers.

Even with new laws, drivers themselves have to commit to make any real change in inattentive driving.

Related: Texting and Driving Put Us Over the Line 

In a survey by AAA, more than 90 percent of drivers agreed cellphones were distracting and found it “unacceptable” for people to text, talk, or send emails while driving. However, 35 percent of the same people admitted texting and 66 percent admitted to talking on the phone while driving.

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