California Legalizes Some Texting While Driving, Sort Of

from the will-it-reduce-accidents? dept

A few years ago, California outlawed texting while driving. On the whole, this is one of those things that certainly seems like a good idea. I'm still amazed that anyone -- law or no law -- thinks that texting while driving is a reasonable thing to do. It's a clear death wish. That said, like many laws, there appear to be unintended consequences. A few studies have suggested that states that put in place anti-texting while driving laws actually saw an increase in accidents compared to nearby states that had no such ban. How does that make sense? Well, it's because the law doesn't seem to actually get everyone to stop texting while driving. Instead, what it does is make them hide what they're doing, which generally means putting it down in their lap. Before that, they could hold it up and still see the road, even if they weren't paying close enough attention to it.

None of this is defending the ridiculously dangerous practice of texting while driving, but merely acknowledging that the law intended to make the roads safer could actually do the opposite.

With all that said, it's interesting to see that California quietly legalized some forms of texting while driving last week with very little fanfare. Basically, it allows totally hands-free texting -- such as dictating messages via a bluetooth headset or a car service like OnStar. Of course, unsurprisingly when dealing with lawmakers and lawmaking, there's a lot of confusion over the new rules -- with some wondering if it meant that something like Siri was now legal while driving. That resulted in the following amusing passage in the SJ Merc article about this, in which the staff of the sponsor of the bill is left to admit that no one there has an iPhone, so they didn't even really think about Siri:
On Friday, after much head-scratching and acknowledging nobody in Miller's office owns a Siri-equipped iPhone 4S, the assemblyman's aides concluded it will still be illegal to use your actual phone to text behind the wheel -- even by speaking the message directly into Siri.

The California Highway Patrol confirms that just the act of turning on the phone or selecting the phone's hands-free text app, like pushing the Siri button or Google apps on Android phones, is enough to warrant flashing lights in your rearview mirror and a $100-plus ticket. The same thing goes for using your phone to read texts.

"The phone can't be in your hands," said CHP spokeswoman Jaime Coffee. "Hands-free is the key."
Either way, this seems to suggest, once again, the difficulty in regulating any particular technology in a rapidly changing technology market. I still don't understand why we don't just do the simple thing: make dangerous and distracted driving illegal, and just teach people the human consequences of doing something moronic like texting while driving.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. icon
    Ninja (profile), 17 Jul 2012 @ 11:44am

    Re:

    It's interesting. I don't usually speed on highways but recently I caught myself on a few interesting situations.

    Once I was driving way up the speed limit on a road that had no surveillance at all like the limit was like 70 mph and I was at 90 mph. However, it was broad daylight, the road had very few vehicles (none in the left lane which is the one to drive at the limit speed), the road was in incredibly good conditions (no holes or cracks) and most important I felt the car in my hands. When I noticed I was speeding I slowed down. When I came back through the same road it was already getting dark so I was actually driving slower than the speed limit, I don't like to drive during the night.

    On another example I was driving to the seaside and the road isn't that good and there are very sharp curves. On top of that it was rainy at the time. So the speed limit was something something near 50 mph and I was driving at 30 mph.

    You see, those were speeds I found to be reasonable and prudent at those conditions. The issue is, not everybody does what's reasonable and prudent and put themselves and others in danger. That someone that fought the ticket was speeding on purpose and knew he/she was way beyond the safety limits. It is unfortunate that you need to make explicit laws that penalize the majority because of a few who are immature and irresponsible. Here in Brazil it's actually the opposite lmao, you have to write laws for the majority that's immature and irresponsible and the few reasonable and prudent just have to go along.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.