Distractions while driving were not uncommon before California drivers had phones in their cars. Drivers took their eyes off the road to retrieve dropped items, change radio stations or daydream. Those momentary diversions still happen, but today, drivers are also tempted by electronic devices.
The Tribune reported a 62-year-old Los Angeles bicyclist was killed and a second bike rider was severely injured, in a recent collision with a sport utility vehicle. The pair was riding on the shoulder of a road near Paso Robles, when the fatal bike accident occurred. Authorities claim the teen driver responsible for the crash was distracted.
An 18-year-old male behind the wheel of a GMC Yukon was traveling about 60 mph, when the driver's cellphone fell off his lap. Just as the teen reached for the phone, the driver realized a car up ahead had stopped to make a turn. The GMC swerved onto the right shoulder and back on the road, then veered right again into the bicyclists, as the driver attempted to recover the phone.
The female bicyclist died at the scene; her 59-year-old riding partner, a Seal Beach man, was hospitalized with what reports called "major" injuries. The uninjured teen driver was not cited or charged. California Highway Patrol officers in the ongoing accident investigation didn't believe alcohol or drugs were involved.
Hand-held cellphone use and texting while driving are prohibited in California. The use of hands-free cellphones is permitted for adult drivers. Drivers under 18 are restricted from using hands-free or hand-held cellphones other than to report emergencies.
Fines aren't high for breaking California cellphone laws – just $20 for a first-time offense. However, distracted drivers who cause bicycle accidents may face serious criminal and civil consequences. Victims and families harmed by distracted drivers have a right to file claims for damages to cover medical costs, wage replacement and other accident-related losses.
Source: The Tribune, "CHP says driver using cellphone hits 2 cyclists, killing one near Paso Robles" Janet Lavelle, Nov. 28, 201