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San Diego Drivers In Crashes While Using Phones Up 24% In A Decade

California’s hands-free driving law went into effect in 2008

A graph showing the increase in drivers on cell phones who get into crashes o...

Above: A graph showing the increase in drivers on cell phones who get into crashes over the past 10 years.

San Diego Drivers In Crashes While Using Phones Up 24% In A Decade

GUEST:

Joe Simitian, author, California's hands-free driving law

Transcript

More drivers in San Diego and statewide are getting into car crashes while using a phone 10 years after California’s law against texting or using a handheld phone went into effect.

Data from the California Highway Patrol show fewer people on phones got into crashes in the immediate aftermath of the law. But by 2011, drivers distracted by phones in crashes were back on the rise and surpassed 2007 levels by 2016.

San Diego police are participating in a statewide campaign on Friday to make distracted driving an enforcement priority.

CHP pointed to data showing 22,315 distracted drivers got into collisions last year, down significantly from 33,328 drivers in 2007. But those figures don't shed light on whether the law has curbed the dangers of using a cell phone while driving. Less than 10 percent of the drivers were distracted by a cell phone according to the CHP.

But the percentage of drivers in car crashes who cited cell phone use as at least one factor in the collision increased 37 percent over the last 10 years from 1,425 to 1,957. In San Diego, drivers who crashed while distracted by a phone rose 24 percent, from 70 in 2007 to 87 last year.

Another state study found 3.58 percent of drivers appeared to be using hand-held phones at any one time last year, based on observations of more than 200 locations across the state. That's about half of the 7.6 percent from 2016.

Santa Clara Supervisor Joe Simitian wrote California’s hands-free law when he was a state senator. He joins KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday to reflect on the effectiveness of the law.

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