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California's Talking While Driving Law


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11/17/2008
Vaughan de Kirby
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In September 2006, California became the fourth state to restrict cell phone use while driving.  

The new law, which goes into effect July 1, 2008, bans hand-held cell phone use while driving. Drivers may still use a cell phone, as long as it’s with a hands-free device or head-set.

A first offense will result in a $20 fine, and every offense thereafter will carry a $50 fine.

This law is presumably in response to recent research and statistics about the danger of cell phone use in the car.

But does the law make sense in light of what research has actually shown?

Not in the slightest. Research has demonstrated that cell phone use—regardless of whether it’s with a headset—impairs one’s driving ability to the same degree as driving with a BAC slightly above the legal limit. It may even be more dangerous.

A drunk driver might face jail time, steep fines, a revoked license, alcohol counseling, a mandatory and expensive ignition interlock device, probation and a criminal record that could last a lifetime.

In California, drivers who talk on their cell phones—which studies show is no less dangerous than drunk drive—face…

a $20 fine.

Just goes to show that public policy isn’t always based on the relevant science. So often, the relative harshness of laws is based on what pushes people’s moral outrage buttons.

And at the moment, at least, drunk drivers are viewed with far more scorn than chatting drivers.

For more information, read the article “Drunk Driving Versus Cell Phones.”



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