Lawmaker wants to outlaw hands-free texting


O'Von Pettaway is among the thousands of California drivers who texts hands-free while driving.

"The law says I'm allowed to dictate, so I dictate," Pettaway said.

With long commutes and traffic jams, it's become a way of life in California since hand-free texting while driving became legal last year.

"It's the 21st Century; it's about convenience, it's about efficiency, and that's a convenient way of communicating when I'm in my car," Pettaway said.

But a year into the law, a freshman state lawmaker now wants to make hands-free texting illegal.

"The average time for looking and being distracted is about 4.6 seconds and at 55 miles an hour, that's almost a football field that you're not paying attention to the drivers around you and that's not OK," Assm. Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, said.

Frazier cites a new Virginia Tech study that shows hands-free texting is actually just as dangerous as traditional texting. Researchers found voice-controlled texted required higher mental demand and longer glances away from the road.

The Democrat Assemblyman also laments numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: nearly 1,000 deaths and 24,000 injuries a year involve cellphone use as a major distraction.

But critics wonder if this proposed ban opens the door to more restrictions.

"If you ban one, hands-free texting, what's the next step going to be," hands-free texting advocate Christopher Pfenning said. "Hands-free talking?"

Frazier says, for now, no. He's just trying to make roads safer after having lost a daughter to a crash unrelated to texting.

"As a father who lost a child in a car accident, I don't want anybody to ever have to go through what I did," he said.

Pettaway, though, thinks it's more nanny government.

"I think you can multi-task in a car and still be an effective, safe driver," Pettaway said.

The bill should get its first hearing this spring.

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