Does in-car tech drive CA law enforcement authorities to distraction?

Data shows distracted California police officers are contributing to a growing number of crashes, possibly due to the technology they use during work.

Distracted driving has become an epidemic across the country. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that distraction-related motor vehicle accidents caused over 421,000 injuries and 3,328 fatalities in 2012 alone. Unfortunately, as many locals know, Los Angeles is no exception to this deadly trend. New research suggests that even state law enforcement authorities are dangerously distracted while behind the wheel.

Too much technology

A recent newspaper investigation found that California police officers, along with firefighters and ambulance drivers, are contributing to a growing number of distracted driving accidents. Over the last decade, the number of state accidents due to distracted emergency vehicle drivers increased 122 percent, according to the Washington Times.

Over the last two years, such accidents have claimed 3 lives and caused 140 injuries. In 2013, 180 accidents occurred; the use of in-car electronics, such as police computers, was a known factor in one-quarter of them. The number of accidents in 2013 represented almost a 10 percent increase over the year before, when 165 occurred. These accidents may be increasing for a few reasons:

  • Police officers and other emergency responders are often exempt from state laws on handheld cellphone use, since they may need these devices for wok-related purposes.
  • Police officers face numerous distractions that average drivers may not, including GPS systems, work and personal cellphones and multichannel radios.
  • Advanced technology, such as in-car computers, may be even more distracting than electronics such as cellphones. The use of these advanced devices has only increased in recent years.

The issue of whether this necessary technology takes too much attention away from driving has become enough of a concern to merit a special study. According to the Los Angeles Daily News, California's Office on Peace Officer Standards and Training, along with the Office of Naval Research, has funded a laboratory study to determine just how distracting job-related technology is for police officers.

Researchers have already found that collision risk doubles during activities deemed less distracting than using in-car computers or similarly advanced technology. Other data from the laboratory simulations is still being analyzed. However, based on the recent rise in accidents, it is clear that the technology creates a distraction many people cannot safely manage.

Options for accident victims

Some accidents involving police officers and other responders arise under unusual conditions or circumstances that could not have been foreseen. Sadly, though, some of the recent accidents have involved clear cases of misconduct or poor decision-making. For example, in 2013, one Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy struck and killed a bicyclist when he drifted into a bicycle lane while typing on his in-car computer.

Whether they are on the job or off the clock, law enforcement authorities have a responsibility to exercise due care toward other people, including other motorists. Anyone who has been hurt because that duty was breached can benefit from meeting with an attorney to discuss the accident and the possibility of pursuing compensation.

Keywords: distracted driving, texting, accident, injury