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California Outlaws Text Messaging While Driving

On Wednesday September 24, 2008 a law was signed by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger making reading and typing text messages while driving a motor vehicle illegal. The bill will become law in January, 2009. A $20 fine will be given for first time offenders and a $50 fine to repeat offenders. The law comes soon after the recent Metrolink train collision in Chatsworth, CA on September 12, 2008 killing 25 and injurying 130. The negligent driver of the Metrolink train was said to have been text messaging seconds before the trains collided and failed to stop at a stop light.

In California, as well as seven other states, drivers are only allowed to use cell phones with hands-free devices. New Jersey and Washington are the only other states that currently have no texting laws. In 2008, the state of washington established a hands-free cell phone law preventing automobile drivers from having a cell phone to their ear while driving, but insead can use Bluetooth or wired headsets. Currently in Oregon, there are no text messaging or even hands-free device laws for automobile drivers over 18 years of age. As of January 1, 2008 a law was put in to place where drivers in Oregon under 18 years of age. As of January 1, 2008 a law was put in to place where drivers in Oregon under 18 years old are not all owed the use of any type of communication device, which includes cell phones. This law however is a secondary offense which means that the driver would have to be breaking another law such as speeding or causing a collision to be cited for cell phone use. Fifteen other states have bills that are currently in the works.

Nationwide Insurance did a study that shows an estimated 20 percent of drivers are sending or receiving text messages while driving. With capabilities of phones ever improving, the use of phones while driving automobiles is becoming more prevalent. Drivers use their knees to steer while they type a quick email or text, limiting their control of their vehicle. Existing data shows driver inatention is the leading factor in most automobile and truck crashes and near-crashes and texting takes a driver’s eyes off the road.

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