California’s highways have been plagued with congestion since at least the 1990s, and the state has had a number of accidents, including one that killed a cyclist.
A study released last year by the California Department of Transportation found that in 2017, nearly two million motorists were killed on the state’s roads, and that the number of crashes caused by distracted driving was up 40 percent since 2014.
While the state is spending billions to upgrade the state highway system, there’s a real question about whether drivers will actually get the message and stop being distracted.
“The fact that we have the largest number of fatalities in California for distracted driving is the real issue,” says Kevin Jorgensen, president of the California Automobile Association, an industry trade group.
“People need to understand that we need to address this before the toll continues to increase.”
The Highway Safety Alliance, an advocacy group that promotes safe driving practices across the U.S., is taking a different approach.
The group’s director, Robert DeSantis, says the number one challenge is keeping distracted drivers off the road.
“We know that distracted driving increases the risk of crashes,” he says.
“The message we want to send is that the safest way to get around is to have a vehicle with a rearview mirror, and if you’re not looking at it, you’re doing it wrong.”
The group is encouraging people to share their experience of driving on the highway with their family members, friends and co-workers, and encourage them to stay off the roads if they see another driver distracted.
DeSantis also says that drivers should stay on the road to ensure that their safety is protected, and to protect other road users.
“You need to stay alert and have your headlights on, and use your hand signals to communicate with other roadways,” he said.
“And you should always keep your vehicle on the right side of the road, especially when you’re crossing a street.”
While the state says it’s working on improving the state roads, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about how distracted drivers can safely operate their vehicles.
The California Department for Transportation, for example, doesn’t offer a recommended texting and driving plan, which is the only guide to the best practices in this area.
DeSants said there are a lot more questions about what it means to be distracted.
“It’s still a really gray area,” he explains.
“It’s really up to us to educate the public and get the information out there and we’re working very hard at it.”
DeSandsons office says it will release a report next month, and is asking anyone who has information about distracted driving on California roads to contact them.