By Dave Stancliff/For the Times Standard
Texting while driving can be lethal, for you or someone else. Texting while walking can also cause an injury related accident, but usually just the texter suffers from that stupidity.
Speaking of stupidity, I can’t believe California has legalized texting while driving. Thanks to Assemblyman Jeff Miller, R-Orange County, the author of Assembly Bill 1536, hands-free texting and emailing while driving, using voice-operated technology will be legal on January 1st, 2013.
The Bill amends section 23123.5 of the Vehicle Code, adding an exception to the prohibition on text-based communication as follows (the amended portion is in red):
(A.) A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using an electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication, unless the electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation to dictate, send, or listen to a text-based communication, and it is used in that manner while driving.
(C.) For purpose of this section, a person shall not be deemed to be writing, reading, or sending a text-based communication if the person reads, selects, or enters a telephone number or name in an electronic wireless communications device for the purpose of making or receiving a telephone call or if a person otherwise activates or deactivates a feature or function on an electronic wireless communications device.
California has decided to follow Idaho’s lead (their bill went into effect August 1st) and be the second state stupid enough to think hands-free texting is not a problem. A representative from Assemblyman Miller’s office told the press that the bill is not meant to be an endorsement of texting while driving.
Really? What a naïve thought. In our sound byte world here’s what most people heard after Jerry Brown signed the bill into law, especially texters; “It’s going to be legal to text on January 1, 2013.”
Call it selective hearing. The penalty for a violation of the law is a $20 fine for the first offense. Each offense after the first warrants a fine of $50. This low fine will guarantee no one will worry about getting pulled over. It’s hardly a deterrent. Littering gets you a larger fine than that.
The bottom line is, texting (handheld or voice activated) is another distraction while driving. Driver inattention is one of the leading reasons for car accidents in America. Daydreaming, fiddling with the radio, and using a cell phone have been cited in three-fourths of the United States’ dangerous driving incidents.
The Transportation Safety Group at the National Safety Council found that distracted drivers account for nearly 80 percent of car crashes. Their survey also found that teenagers and Generation Y (ages 18-30) drivers are most likely to send text messages while driving.
Some more sober statistics to consider: About 6,000 deaths and half a million injuries are caused by distracted drivers every year.
While teenagers are texting, they spend about 10 percent of the time driving outside the lane they’re supposed to be in.
Talking on a cell phone while driving can make a young driver’s reaction time as slow as that of a 70-year-old.
Answering a text takes your attention for about five seconds. That is enough time to travel the length of a football field.
I could go on with statistics but I think you have the idea. The people who argue it’s safe to text with voice-activated devices ignore the statistics. Or they just don’t care. The majority of people who text and drive admit they know it’s dangerous, but continue to do so anyway.
Despite this and many more statistics, AB 1536 sailed through the legislature and became a law. Ask yourself why? Who benefits financially from preventing any meaningful law to restrict the use of Smart phones, even when safety becomes a risk?
You’ve probably heard the phrase “Follow the money.” It certainly applies here. Lobbyists were busy. If our lawmakers were really concerned about public safety, this bill would not have passed. It’s a stain on the record of all who voted for it.
As It Stands, is it really worth losing your life, or killing someone else, to send a message to someone? I don’t think so.
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