Can I Use My Cell Phone While Stopped at a Red Light?

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    Cell phone use while driving is among the leading causes of car accidents in California and nationwide. Cell phone usage is so dangerous it is comparable to driving intoxicated by alcohol. The risk of intoxication and cell phones are about the same. Cell phone usage is dangerous, including texting, checking emails, or using social media. Distracted drivers can quickly cause accidents. After a distracted driving accident, call our California car accident lawyers from Arash Law, founded by famous attorney Arash Khorsandi, Esq.

    When you are at a red light, it is evident that someone is using their cell phone. You can see the driver looking at their phone or taking too long to respond to the changing light. These are common signs that the driver in front or next to you is using a cell phone. It is illegal to use a cell phone while driving in California. Most Californians are aware doing so is illegal. Where things get murky is using a cell phone while at the red light.

    We must look into what distracted driving entails. Legally speaking, it involves any behavior, cell phone use included, that restricts a driver from operating a vehicle. The gray area is when people are stopped at red lights. Most drivers believe texting or using the phone at red lights is safe and acceptable. This belief comes from the understanding that the car is technically not in motion.

    While there is some gray area on the legality surrounding these actions, you have options if an accident happens. You can pursue compensation if you are hurt because a driver is negligent, reckless, or inattentive. You should seek compensation for emotional, physical, and financial losses with a California car accident lawyer. We are dedicated to helping injury victims throughout California get justice.

    How Many Drivers Text at Red Lights?

    A woman using phone while drivingA survey conducted by IDriveSafely.com assessing driving habits found some interesting facts. Over half of American drivers read text messages when stopped at a red light or stop sign. Other findings include:

    • Fifty-four percent of drivers type messages at red lights.
    • Thirty-four percent of drivers typed messages at stop signs.
    • Thirty-six percent of drivers read text messages at stop signs.
    • Sixty-five percent of drivers read texts at red lights.

    California Distracted Driving Laws

    Using smartphones at red lights is prevalent. However, just because something is common doesn’t mean it is legal. There is a stark difference between prevalent and legal. California law states that using a cell phone behind the wheel is illegal.

    While the law says it is illegal to use a cell phone, it does not specify when a vehicle is stopped and in motion. Section 23123.5(a) of the California Vehicle Code states, “A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone . . . unless the wireless telephone . . . is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation, and it is used in that manner while driving.”

    There are various opinions on how to apply this law to real-world circumstances. Many drivers interpret the law as having a potential loophole. The question that arises is if you are at a red light, does that count as driving a vehicle? Some people believe it does, and others do not.

    To clarify this concern, we have Section 23123.5(c), which states:

    “A handheld wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device may be operated in a manner requiring the use of the driver’s hand while the driver is operating the vehicle only if both of the following conditions are satisfied:
    (1) The handheld wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is mounted on a vehicle’s windshield . . . or is mounted on or affixed to a vehicle’s dashboard or center console in a manner that does not hinder the driver’s view of the road.
    (2) The driver’s hand is used to activate or deactivate a feature or function . . . with the motion of a single swipe or tap of the driver’s finger.”

    This statute section outlines what California thinks about smartphone use at red lights and stop signs. California considers you to be operating a vehicle when stopped at a stop sign or red light. Basically, you can only use your phone if you can complete the action with a single swipe, such as answering a phone call. However, you must use a hands-free device like your car’s Bluetooth if you answer a call.

    For additional clarification, the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) made a statement about cellphone use specifically for anyone in the driver’s seat. In short, it is prohibited in any capacity.

    Their official statement is, “In California, you cannot use a cell phone…while holding it in your hand. You can only use it in a hands-free manner, such as a speakerphone or voice commands, but never while holding it.”

    These sections, statutes, and statements work in tandem to show there is no distinction between cell phone usage while in motion or while stopped. While the information is out there, many drivers choose not to follow it. When that happens, you should speak to a car accident lawyer in California.

    Types of Distracted Driving

    Man talking with the phone in his hand while driving

    Distracted driving can take many forms. There are different categories of distractions, but they are all very dangerous. Cell phone use falls under all of the categories we will explore. The primary types of distracted driving are:

    • Manual – Anything that requires a person to take their hands off the steering wheel. Common examples include eating, drinking, and reaching for items in the car. Texting or grabbing a cell phone also fits into this category.
    • Visual – Any activity that takes a driver’s eyes off the road is a visual distraction. This distraction can include looking at signs, the GPS, or at passengers. Looking at a cell phone screen is also a visual distraction.
    • Cognitive – Cognitive distraction is a tricky one to prove. It involves a person taking their mind and thoughts off of the vehicle’s operation. The person can be thinking about work, school, grocery shopping, etc. Manual and visual distractions are easier to spot than cognitive ones since there is no apparent action the person is taking.

    Using a cell phone is unique because it is part of all these categories. Combining all three distractions becomes a dangerous situation. While texting is the most common action, all cell phone usage is dangerous.

    Other examples of dangerous cell phone use while driving include:

    • Using social media
    • Making phone calls
    • Playing games on your phone
    • Taking pictures or videos
    • Using the GPS
    • Starting, stopping, or changing your music

    As with every rule, people will try to find ways around it. Many people will use hands-free technology to limit distracted driving. People think doing so is an excellent solution because it addresses the manual and visual aspects of distracted driving. Studies have shown that using hands-free devices can slow a driver’s reaction time. They are slowed to a point comparable to someone with a BAC of .08 percent, the legal limit for alcohol.

    While distracted driving has become synonymous with cell phone use, it is not the only distraction. Long before cell phones were easily accessible, distracted driving was a problem. Many of these actions are considered routine today but are forms of distraction. Examples include:

    • Changing the radio station
    • Talking to passengers
    • Adjusting the temperature
    • Tending to children

    Children and pets are extreme distractions for drivers. Pets, in particular, can move about the car and cause chaos. If you must drive with a pet, keep them in a kennel or behind a separator. You can also use special car harnesses or car seats to keep your pets and yourself safe. To keep them occupied, give them some toys. It is also essential to take regular bathroom breaks so they can stretch and get their energy out if you are on a road trip.

    In a perfect world, drivers will stay focused on the road and avoid all distractions. Unfortunately, drivers think they can handle multiple tasks at once, which is when things can get dangerous. Even when most drivers avoid distractions, one can participate in several distractions and cause injury or death. You need legal assistance if you are involved in a collision with a distracted driver. You must speak to our distracted driving accident lawyers in California from Arash Law, managed and operated by Arash Khorsandi, Esq.

    Dangers of Using a Cell Phone at a Red Light

    The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) reports that texting at a red light can decrease a person’s “situational awareness,” leading to slower reaction times and driving errors. There is extensive reach showing how dangerous using a phone at a light can be. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association issued the following statement:

    “It’s not safe to text at a stop light. Research shows that the brain remains distracted even after you put the phone down and start driving. And you need your brain at full capacity to drive safely. The best bet is always to stow your phone while behind the wheel and remain focused on the road for the full ride – whether in motion or stopped at a light”.

    One possible reason the original statute did not include the distinction regarding red lights is that they didn’t consider it. They may have felt the verbiage covered all the bases. However, people have interpreted the law in other ways. That has led to some confusion and the need for further clarification.

    There are many examples of why checking your phone when stopped is dangerous. One example is a person sitting at a red light, looking at their phone. They see the car next to them beginning to move from their peripheral vision. Since the person is distracted, they take their foot off the brake without looking up. Now they have rear-ended the vehicle in front of them.

    Another example is a person who is distracted and stopped at a red light. They are initially the only people there. Suddenly another distracted driver approaches from the other side. It results in a head-on collision. If even one of the drivers had been paying attention, the accident could have been avoided.

    Ideally, all drivers will be paying attention, and many accidents will be avoided. Since that is not the case, these distracted drivers must be held accountable for their actions.

    Penalties for Texting at Stop Lights

    Since we have concluded that using a cell phone at a stoplight is illegal and dangerous, it is time to address the consequences. California is strict when it comes to texting and driving. They will charge first-time offenders with fines between $150 and $162. For a second-time offense, the penalties are higher and can go up to $285.

    While there are legal penalties, there are also other consequences. Distracted driving can often lead to car accidents. When a person causes an accident, they can suffer an injury or injure others. Sometimes people will die from distracted driving. If a distracted driver injured you or a loved one, speak to our record-setting car accident lawyers from Arash Law.

    Intersection Accidents

    car crash at an intersection

    The Federal Highway Administration reports that 50 percent of all car accidents happen at intersections. Over 50 percent of these collisions are serious, and 20 percent are fatal. Additionally, the NHTSA shows that 55 percent of intersection accidents are due to distractions, inattention, and inadequate surveillance. Texting at any point during the operation of a vehicle is unsafe. Drivers can face traffic citations and be involved in collisions. It is best to put the phone down until you reach your destination.

    What often happens at intersections is the light turns green while the person is distracted, causing them to accelerate quickly when another car honks. Since the person did not assess the area, they may not realize what other drivers are doing and be involved in an accident. Often these accidents result in rear-end collisions.

    Gathering Evidence in Distracted Driving Claims

    Even though distracted driving is dangerous, people drive distracted daily. When you file an insurance claim, you must present evidence that the person was distracted, which led to the accident and your injuries. You will also have to show your accident-related losses. Arash Law can help you gather evidence, such as:

    • Cell phone records showing time stamps of text messages
    • Data from fitness trackers
    • Analysis of the other driver’s social media if they were posting and driving
    • Email timestamps
    • Photos or videos with location and timestamps

    Our California car accident lawyers understand how devastating the consequences of these car accidents are. Our team of industry-recognized personal injury lawyers will work diligently to help you build a strong case and pursue compensation.

    Suffering Injuries from Distracted Drivers? Call Arash Law Today

    Sending or checking a text message can seem harmless, but it is not. Arash Law and the team are led by Arash Khorsandi, Esq., with decades of experience helping victims of distracted driving. You have options if a distracted driver injures you or someone you love. Our California personal injury lawyers are here to help. Call our distracted driving accident lawyers in California at (888) 488-1391 for an initial consultation about your accident.

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    DISCLAIMER: Information provided on this blog is not formal legal advice. It is generic legal information. Under no circumstances should the information on this page be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal action. Always obtain a free and confidential case evaluation from a reputable attorney near you if you think you might have a personal injury lawsuit.

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