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Lawmaker wants to ban texting with hands-free devices while driving

February 14, 2013|By Patrick McGreevy
  • A motorist appears to be texting while driving at the intersection of Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards in Beverly Hills.
A motorist appears to be texting while driving at the intersection of Santa… (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles…)

What the state Legislature giveth, the Legislature can taketh away.

Just months after lawmakers approved a law allowing California motorists to text while driving if they use hands-free, voice-activated devices, Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) has introduced a bill to outlaw the practice.

Former Assemblyman Jeff Miller (R-Corona) authored the bill signed into law last year by Gov. Jerry Brown to allow hands-free texting.  That law "will allow Californians to communicate safely and responsibly while on the road," Miller said at the time.

Frazier disagrees.

“Study after study has shown that all distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety,” Frazier said in a statement Wednesday. "Is a text message really worth the risk of injuring or killing someone?”

Frazier said there are nearly 1,000 deaths and 24,000 injuries in traffic accidents each year that include cellphone use as the major distraction. In introducing AB 313, he cited a new Virginia Tech study that indicates voice-activated texting may actually be just as dangerous as texting on a hand-held cellphone while behind the wheel because it requires higher mental demand and can keep eyes off the road.

Frazier’s office released a statement by Dr. Richard Harkness, a psychologist and traffic safety researcher, calling last year’s bill "one of the most dangerous traffic laws I have seen in my lifetime."

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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