New study: Distracted driving remains prevalent near California schools

It is no secret that distracted driving leads to car accidents, causing thousands of injuries every year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 387,000 people were injured in crashes that involved a distracted driver in 2011. As of 2013, 41 states, including California, have banned texting for all drivers. In California, handheld cell phone use is also prohibited by law for all drivers.

Nevertheless, many drivers seem unable or unwilling to give up the distractions and focus on the road, even in areas where some of the most vulnerable individuals are concentrated. In a new study administered by the California Friday Night Live Partnership, distracted driving was found to be dangerously common near California schools.

Each intersection averaged nearly two distracted drivers per minute

On October 15, monitors posted near 70 major intersections abutting California high schools kept watch for instances of distracted driving. The study spanned 24 California counties, and over just one hour of observation, more than 7,000 instances of distracted driving were recorded.

The most common distraction was in-hand cell phone use, which is not only potentially dangerous, but is also a violation of California's traffic laws. In total, 2,139 drivers were seen using a handheld cell phone, an average of 31 per hour at each intersection.

A close second in the distraction survey was eating or drinking, with an average of 30 observations per hour at every site. Personal grooming and smoking rounded out the top four distractions.

A number of other distracting behaviors were also recorded, including wearing headphones, operating a vehicle with a pet on the driver's lap and blasting extreme volume on a vehicle's audio system. A total of 90 drivers - an average of more than one an hour per site - were seen reading printed material behind the wheel.

Talk to a California car accident attorney if you have been injured in a crash

The California Highway Patrol defines distraction as any activity that impairs a driver's cognitive, visual, physical or auditory abilities while operating a vehicle. Just because there is not a specific law banning a distracting activity like there is for texting and other handheld cell phone use, it does not mean drivers otherwise have carte blanche to take their focus off the road.

The safety of motorists and pedestrians depends on drivers paying attention to what they are doing. The new study shows this is not always happening in California, not even around schools, where drivers should be particularly attentive.

When a driver causes an accident by being distracted, the driver - or his or her insurer - can be held financially responsible by those who are injured as a result. Payouts can include compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and permanent bodily impairment.

If you have been harmed by a distracted driver, contact a California car accident attorney. You attorney can ensure you receive the maximum compensation to which you are entitled.