California Law Allows Hands-Free Texting
Using in-car electronics to receive and reply to text messages now legal.
With all the attention surrounding distracted driving, there’s been a push for states to ban text messaging behind the wheel. But a new California law makes texting by drivers legal -- as long as it’s done hands-free. In sponsoring and promoting the low-profile law, AB 1536, Assemblyman Jeff Miller, R-Corona, pointed to how current laws designed to curb distracted driving can cause difficulties for business people who spend a lot of time in their vehicles.
Miller, while proclaiming that he believes “public safety is the first priority of government,” noted on his website that technology now exists that not only allows drivers to talk on the phone hands-free, but also to text in the same way. He said in a press release that the bill’s passage “marks a huge victory for commuters, as AB 1536 will now make it easier to utilize new technology to its full advantage, allowing Californians to communicate safely and responsibly while on the road. AB 1536 brings the current hands-free statute up-to-date with emerging technology, allowing the use of specifically designed voice-operated devices to dictate, send or listen to text-based communications.”
According to the website HandsFreeInfo.com, automakers and technology providers have been promoting changes in legislation that permit voice-controlled, hands-free operation for phoning -- but not texting. But the larger issue is that technology is moving at a pace that makes it difficult for lawmakers to keep up, and laws passed in haste need to be changed later.
While some states’ distracted-driving laws were drafted in a way that allows for hands-free operation of all portable electronic devices, California passed separate cell-phone and texting laws, and the texting ban didn’t permit hands-free operation. The broadly worded AB 1536, which passed the California Assembly without substantial opposition and sailed through the Senate on a unanimous vote, seeks to rectify this.
HandsFreeInfo.com editor Glenn Abel told the San Jose Mercury News: “These laws get passed pretty quickly or by people who don’t understand the technology. And they’re finding that once they get these laws into the field, there are problems, so they come back and try to fine-tune everything.” The Mercury News article noted that there was puzzlement even in Miller’s office over which devices would be affected by the new law.
Several automakers allow hands-free text messaging through a vehicle’s infotainment system, using text-to-speech technology to read a message to a driver and offer pre-programmed responses with which to reply. Some even allow receiving status updates on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter while behind the wheel. But safety advocates have pointed out that even hands-free operation requires drivers to shift a portion of their “cognitive load” to something other than the task at hand -- driving -- and are wary of adding more potential distractions to the dashboard.
“A main question is: If you make texting and Facebook-updating and tweeting a hands-free operation, do you encourage more of it?" Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said to the Mercury News. "Then you're potentially increasing the amount of time that people are distracted."
But if drivers are going to text and tweet behind the wheel despite potential distractions, is it better to have them do it hands-free using in-car technology rather than by operating a small device?
I wonder how much money the telecommunications lobby contributed to his election compaign?
When all science points to the dangers of ANY distractions while driving, we still have idiots in elected office who, for some reason, turn a blind eye.
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