Despite California Cellphone Ban, Distracted Driving Persists

California Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Willows, recently stated that when you ban something, such as cellphone use while driving, people will do less of it. A new study by the University of California, Berkeley takes this concept one step further, finding that decreased use of handheld phones while driving in California has led to fewer accidents, injuries and deaths.

California is one of nine states that prohibit both texting and talking on handheld phones while driving; 35 states have made texting while driving illegal but have not yet banned talking on handheld phones. Although talking on a hands-free headset in California remains legal, the handheld device ban has the indirect effect of less overall use of phones while driving; 40 percent of drivers in a 2011 survey reported talking less in the car due to the ban.

California Traffic Fatalities

According to, the Berkeley study, which looked at truck and car accidents during separate 2-year periods before and after the 2008 ban on handheld cellphone use, is the first to examine the success of cell phone bans. The study found a 47 percent drop in fatal accidents caused by handheld cellphone use since the ban took effect, according to Additionally, there was a 22 percent decrease in fatal California traffic accidents overall. Injuries caused by handheld phone use decreased by about 50 percent.

Violations of California Cellphone Ban

Although California's handheld cellphone ban has been effective in reducing tragic accidents, it has not stopped distracted driving, which causes one in 11 traffic-accident fatalities, according to The California Department of Motor Vehicles reported a 52 percent increase in violations of the handheld cellphone law, punishable by a $20 fine on the first offense and a $50 fine for each subsequent offense, between 2009 and 2011.

Perhaps the discrepancy between decreased fatalities and increased violations can be explained by stepped-up law enforcement efforts. It is clear, however, that distracted driving is a serious problem that causes too many injuries and deaths, even in states like California with restrictive cellphone-use laws.

People injured in traffic accidents should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to handle their case and seek the compensation for their injuries to which they are entitled.