Bill allows CA drivers to 'legally' text and drive

(KGO)
July 13, 2012 7:45:08 PM PDT
All of you who just can't drive without texting will soon have a little breathing room. It will still be illegal for you to text, but if you have voice recognition on your phone, it will be OK to have "Siri" or some program do it for you.

Many mobile devices now have speech recognition technology, allowing people to have a text message read to them or to send a text message by dictation. It's popularized by the iPhone 4S Siri feature. It's so convenient, Siri users drive while holding their iPhone and dictating a text, a big no no. "I didn't know I was illegal in California," Siri will tell you. But people do it anyway. "You don't have to be on the phone or wait for them to answer. Just tell them real quick and be done," Racquel Tacdol says.

Gov. Jerry Brown just signed a bill that clarifies the state's texting laws. Sending and receiving text messages through voice recognition is OK as long as it is hands-free. The auto industry really pushed for this because many vehicles will have that capability. "We have two models already now that have that functionality right now. With the 2013 models and next year, we're looking to have every model should have that capability by then," says Jared Ivey with Niello Acura.

CHP actually had some input in the law. They recognize technology is changing, but were adamant about keeping the devices hands-free. Still, officers want Californians to recognize their ability, that not everyone can multi-task. "Some individuals can do this while driving a vehicle. There's others that can't do anything but driving and they need to just focus on just driving," says Adrian Quintero with the CHP.

Tim Bloom was unclear about the law too and now understands what's allowed starting January 1 on his Android. "I think it's a good idea to have a law that lets me, with one button, talk to whoever I need to talk to and get the message out," he says.

CHP says it's OK to hold your phone to look up a contact while driving, but that's it. They add that it's not OK to check email or read text messages while at a stop light or in bumper-to-bumper traffic. On average, it's a $165 ticket.


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