Everyone knows that text messaging while driving can be dangerously distracting. A recent study revealed that texting is more dangerous to driving than drugs or alcohol. Still many are fighting proposed legislation to ban texting while driving, complaining that it violates freedom and would limit options in an emergency.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken a hard stance on texting while driving. He championed and passed a ban on cell phone texting, which will go into effect January 1. Offending motorists will pay $20 on their first violation, and $50 for each subsequent violation. Gov. Schwarzenegger was pleased to push through the bill by California's Tuesday legislative deadline.
He hopes that the new bill will help dissuade drivers from using their cell phones when driving. He states, "Banning electronic text messaging while driving will keep drivers' hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, making our roadways a safer place for all Californians."
Following the September 12 collision between a Metrolink passenger train and a freight train, which killed 25 people and injured 135, and was possibly caused by railroad engineer texting, the California Public Utilities Commission has banned some railroad workers from texting on the job.
California also passed a ban on holding cell phones while driving, which took effect July 1. The law only allows drivers to use hands-free headsets while driving. Insurers, bicyclists and, interestingly, cell phone companies supported both bills.
Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), who wrote the new law, SB 28, and worked closely with Schwarzenegger states, "When somebody's distracted it puts not just the driver at risk but everybody else in the car and everybody else on the highway."
For those who think Gov. Schwarzenegger and California's traffic agency are joking about the ban, they might want to consider the figures on the recent ban on holding cell phones. According to Tom Marshall, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol, California state officers issued 19,753 citations to motorists. This is in addition to the thousands more issued by local police departments. While less drivers are stopped for the offense then speeding, the numbers add up Marshall said. He states, "Why everybody isn't hands-free now, I have no idea."
Many states are considering similar laws, or already have such laws in place. However, with the bipartisan leadership of the nation's most populous state taking a high-profile stand against text-and-drive, the new legislation may spread throughout the nation.