California Eases Ban on Texting While Driving, Allows Handheld Devices

July 16, 2012

Two-text sign, from SmartSign

Using mobile phones are distracting to drivers because they divert attention that should be on the road, but most legislation focuses on hands-on devices.

July 16, 2012 — Last week, California passed a bill legalizing the operation of voice-activated technology while driving. The bill, which will take effect on January 1, 2013, was initially developed to support the use of GPS operating systems and other in dash services. However, the vague language will encompass voice operating systems like Apple’s Siri and Google’s newly introduced Jelly Bean.

One of 39 states that bans texting while driving, California is the second after Idaho to approve a hands-free law like this one. The law states that drivers may use devices that are “specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation.”


California has deemed hands-free use of electronic devices legal. Will this adversely affect drivers’ safety?

Though legislation of this sort seems the best to accommodate drivers who need navigation systems and other communications while driving, distracted driving campaigns that focus on the danger of any distraction are sure to find fault with the new plans. In general, any sort of distraction is dangerous especially for novice drivers. More experienced drivers are also subject to accidents and this danger increases with any added interference.

As voice-activated programs become more common, their effect on safe driving will be more apparent. Given the recent surge in voice-activated technology, the results of this type of legislation will be seen in time. As for now, police officers will still enforce any sort of hands-on interaction with an electronic device to prevent drivers from taking not just their minds, but their hands off the wheel.

– K. Howitt

Category: News, Regulations

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