Patt Morrison for July 16, 2012

Are changes in texting-while-driving laws enforceable?

Gov. Jerry Brown

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks during a news conference on May 14, 2012 in Los Angeles.

On Friday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law which will allow drivers to send texts using hand free voice dictation technology after January 1, 2013.

Assemblyman Jeff Miller, (R-Corona) sponsored the new law after being approached by the auto industry in Detroit to make their newer technology-enhanced vehicles legal to sell in California.

“You have to speak and you have to listen, you can’t touch anything. And as long as you have this new technology, under my bill, you would be in compliance with the law,” Miller said.

In the case of texting while driving, a law went into effect in California in 2009 that made it illegal for drivers to operate hand-held mobile phones regardless of whether they were talking or texting.

“The safest thing you can do behind the wheel is drive,” Mike Harris, public information officer for the California Highway Patrol, Southern Division, said.

According to the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center at the University of California at Berkeley, traffic fatalities went down 22 percent in the aftermath of the 2008 law, and fatalities attributed to drivers using handheld cell phones dropped 47 percent.

Miller admits there are a lot of distractions for drivers but says that texting is just one of them. He and the other sponsors of the bill worked closely with the CHP in crafting the new law. His goal is to make driving safer.

Harris, for his part, says that even if you are in compliance with the laws, if you are driving in an unsafe manner you can still be pulled over.

“You know the law says that you can talk on the phone on a bluetooth, but if you’re unable to maintain your lane and you’re unable to maintain your flow of traffic, you’re still driving unsafely,” Harris said.

Anti-texting-while-driving ad:

WEIGH IN:

Can law enforcement tell exactly how drivers are using their phones while they’re operating a vehicle? Does the ability to dictate a text message without touching a handset make it safe enough to do so while driving?

Guests:

Assemblyman Jeff Miller, (R-Corona) sponsor of AB 1536, the new law that will allow drivers to use handsfree technology to text after January 1, 2013.

Mike Harris, public information officer for the California Highway Patrol, Southern Division


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