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California to relax ban on texting while driving

Texting while driving is a major cause of distracted-driving accidents. Indeed, sending text messages while driving leads to so many car accidents that the practice has been completely banned in the state of California.

Starting next year, though, there will be an exception to this rule. The California Legislature recently passed a law that would allow drivers to send and review text messages using hands-free voice-activated devices. In essence, drivers would dictate outgoing messages instead of typing them and would listen to incoming messages instead of reading them.

Drivers will not be allowed to hold cellphones or manually enter any information into their devices.

The law goes into effect starting January 1, 2013.

“Legal” Doesn’t Necessarily Mean “Safe”

Many people have decried the law, arguing that cellphone use is still distracting, even if drivers are keeping both hands on the wheel. They say that anything that takes a driver’s attention off the road has the potential to cause an accident.

A spokesman from the California Office of Traffic Safety told News 10 that the safest move would be for the state to ban all driver cellphone use, hands-free or not. While this position is certainly the most safety-conscious, it has met considerable pushback from lawmakers and phone-dependent members of the public.

All drivers have a legal duty to pay attention to the road and operate their vehicles in a way that does not put other motorists at risk. Drivers who cause an accident while using a voice-activated texting system may be held liable in a personal injury lawsuit, even if the act of texting is not a crime in and of itself.

Source: News 10, “California law may ban texting while driving; but new law will allow hands-free texting while driving,” July 17, 2012.

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