More than 3,500 people died in car accidents involving a distracted driver, according to the most recent available data from the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2021.
In recent years, one of the more well-known forms of distracted driving has become cellphone use behind the wheel.
But that’s not the only thing that California Highway Patrol considers distracted driving. Here’s what CHP says you can receive citations for doing behind the wheel:
What is distracted driving?
Anything that prevents a driver from safely operating a car is considered a distraction, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
There are three types of distraction:
- Eyes off the road
- Mind off the road
- Hands off the wheel
Officer Ricardo Ortiz with the CHP said distracted driving can be anything that diverts your attention.
“It can be texting, calling, changing the radio, or putting on makeup,” Ortiz said.
What are some examples of distracted driving?
According to the DMV’s website, here are some examples of what could be considered distracted driving:
Eating fast food
Drivers who focus their attention on food rather than the road could be cited for distracted driving if they are unsafely operating the vehicle. Eating while driving requires more than chewing, the DMV states. It requires opening packages, reaching and wiping off your hands or face, the website said.
Applying your makeup or any other form of personal grooming is considered distracted driving, according to the website.
Driving in itself is a multi-task, requiring your mind and body to work simultaneously, so it should have your full attention, the DMV urges.
Using cell phones and other devices
Using your cellphone behind the wheel is a well-known driving offense, but that’s not the only device drivers should not use while driving.
Adjusting your vehicle’s controls including mirrors, the radio, navigation system and seat level can result in distracted driving, the DMV website said.
Section 23123.5 of the California Vehicle Code states that a person cannot operate a motor vehicle while holding a handheld telephone or electronic device unless it is designed to allow voice-operated and hands-free use.
That means it’s illegal to text even if you’re sitting at a red light.
Driving with a dog in your lap
Ortiz previously told The Bee that, while California Vehicle Code does not explicitly address this, “it could be argued that a dog or animal riding in the owner’s lap while they are operating a vehicle can be a hazard.”
The officer said he has issued a citation for distracted driving due to a dog being on their owner’s lap.
Focusing on something outside the vehicle
The DMV website states that drivers should always focus on their driving. While part of this requires being aware of your surroundings, looking out your window can be a distraction if you are concentrating on:
- An accident
- A vehicle pulled over by law enforcement
- Construction work
- An advertisement
- A scenic view
- Street names and addresses
What are the penalties?
Ortiz said citations can be issued for distracted driving including cellphone use or a violation of the basic speed law.
“The safe speed for operating a vehicle while distracted is zero,” Ortiz said.
Drivers who receive a first-time citation for talking or texting on a cellphone in a non-hands free manner can face a minimum $162 fine, according to the CHP website.
Other types of distracted driving, like eating, grooming or reaching for something on the floor can be “just as dangerous,” according to California Office of Traffic Safety. These actions can result in tickets for reckless driving or a speed law violation, the office states on its website.