California Says Hands-Free Law Will Save 300 Lives Per Year - InformationWeek

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6/30/2008
02:12 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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California Says Hands-Free Law Will Save 300 Lives Per Year

Beginning tomorrow, July 1, drivers in California will be required to use hands-free devices when behind the wheel of their car. A study conducted last month believes the law will save 300 lives annually. Does this type of legislation make a difference, and how will it be enforced?

Beginning tomorrow, July 1, drivers in California will be required to use hands-free devices when behind the wheel of their car. A study conducted last month believes the law will save 300 lives annually. Does this type of legislation make a difference, and how will it be enforced?When the Governator signed the bill prohibiting talking and driving, he said, "The simple fact is it's dangerous to talk on your cell phone while driving. CHP data show that cell phones are the number one cause of distracted-driving accidents. So getting people's hands off their phones and onto their steering wheels is going to make a big difference in road safety. The Hands-Free cell phone bill will save lives by making our roads safer."

But will it? According to some statistics offered up by the U.S. Department of Transportation, distracted drivers cause between 4,000 and 8,000 accidents per day. What's more, a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute says that almost 80% of crashes and 65% of near crashes happen within three seconds of some form of driver distraction.

The Governator's press release goes on to say:

Distracted driving leads to tens of thousands of car accidents annually, with many of these accidents resulting in serious injuries or even death. Distractions while driving include eating, drinking, changing the radio station, reading and using a cell phone. For many of these distractions, there is no practical alternative other than banning the activity. However, there is a practical alternative to holding a cell phone -- using a hands-free device. Hands-free devices are very inexpensive and most new phones come with an earpiece. Using a hands-free device while driving does not eliminate the distraction that comes with cell phones. Talking on the phone and dialing and hanging up the phone create a distraction. However, requiring drivers to use hands-free devices better ensures that drivers have two hands free to place on the wheel while driving.
The laws that go into effect tomorrow aim to force more people to use hands-free systems.

Driving and talking with the phone in your hand will be illegal. Talking while using hands-free devices, such as Bluetooth headsets, will still be allowed for those over 18. Drivers under the age of 18 will not be allowed to use handheld wireless phones or hands-free devices while driving. In other words, if you're under 18, no talking for you. Pay attention to the road.

Cops will be allowed to pull drivers over if they see them talking and driving at the same time. First offense equals a $20 fine, subsequent offenses will cost $50. Anyone, however, will still be permitted to make emergency 911 calls while driving, and drivers of emergency vehicles can make a call any time.

Lastly, truck drivers will be allowed to continue to use push-to-talk phones until July 1, 2011. I've used enough PTT phones in my time to know that setting up a call and carrying out a conversation is no less dangerous than a standard phone. Why these devices are exempted just doesn't make sense.

It will be up to police officers to exercise discretion in pulling people over for using their phones while driving. Will they do it? Who knows. Having this type of legislation, whether or not it is enforced, will convince at least some percentage of people to take more care if they need to use a phone and drive at the same time.

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