Texting while driving: OMG, its the CHP
December 31, 2008
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE The popularity of text-messaging has exploded in recent years, but the frequency of messages like OMG, Im getting pulled over. TTYL, may see a big jump during the new year.Thats because a ban on text-messaging while driving is one of a multitude of new California laws taking effect on Thursday.This new law makes it an infraction to write, send, or read text-based communication on an electronic wireless communications devices, such as a cell phone, while driving a motor vehicle, according to a California Highway Patrol press statement. Previously this was only illegal for individuals under 18 years of age, but now has been expanded to all drivers.The law piggybacks on two bills authored by 11th District Sen. Joe Simitian, which became law July 1.The first requires drivers to use hands-free devices when talking on cell phones, and the other prohibits motorists under age 18 from using any cell phone or electronic messaging device while driving.Gov. Arnold Schwarz-enegger signed the new law in September, making California the sixth U.S. state to ban text-messaging while driving.Drivers can be assessed a $20 fine for a first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses under the law.Violation of the ban is also a primary offense that can trigger a traffic stop for drivers under the age of 18.Simitian has described the texting ban as common sense.Youd think common sense would prevail without legislation, Simitian said in a statement. Unfortunately, common sense isnt always that common. When folks tell me they can drive safely while texting, it reminds me of folks who say Dont worry, I can hold my liquor, before they hop in the car.A survey conducted by mobile messaging service Pinger Inc. and Harris Interactive shows 66 percent of motorists say they read text messages while driving, and 57 percent of drivers admit to sending text messages or e-mails.Separate studies also show the consequences of such behavior.Studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reveal that drivers using a cell phone are four times more likely to be involved in a personal- injury auto accident, that hands-free offers no improvement over hand-held, according to a Nationwide Insurance Press statement. A University of Utah study found that cell-phone users were five times as likely to be in a crash, and their driving performance was worse than a driver with a 0.08 blood alcohol content.The ban comes at a time when the use of text messages has increased dramatically, especially among young people.A recent Nielson survey showed text-messaging increased by more than 450 percent during the past two years, with the average 13- to 17-year-old cell phone user in the U.S. sending or receiving 1,742 text messages per month.In total, 772 bills were signed into California law this year, including 80 changes to the vehicle code.Other new statutes will set up a state certification system for massage therapists, impose new safety requirements for wave pools, provide additional safeguards against misleading sweepstakes pitches and ensure gender equality when married couples pick a last name.