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Bill further curbing cellphone use by teen drivers goes to governor

State lawmakers also send to the governor a bill targeting scalpers who use software to buy blocks of tickets for concerts and sporting events.

September 03, 2013|By Melanie Mason and Patrick McGreevy
  • State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), left, talks with Sen. Lou Correa (D-Anaheim) at the Capitol in Sacramento.
State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), left, talks with Sen. Lou Correa… (Rich Pedroncelli, Associated…)

SACRAMENTO — Lawmakers on Tuesday sent the governor proposals to further curb cellphone use by teenage drivers and to clamp down on scalpers who electronically scoop up blocks of tickets for concerts and sporting events.

The cellphone measure would bar those younger than 18 from using voice-operated hands-free texting programs while behind the wheel. They already are banned from using cellphones while driving, even with hands-free devices.

"Distractions from using a voice-operated device endanger not only the driver but other motorists as well as pedestrians," said the bill's author, state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton).

She added that her bill, SB 194, would "hopefully decrease traffic fatalities caused by distracted driving."

A study released by AAA in June found that using hands-free devices to talk, text or send email can impair a person's ability to drive safely.

The findings "clearly spell out just how dangerous this distracted kind of driving is," said Steve Finnegan, government affairs manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California.

"We're extremely pleased to see this legislation moving forward to make sure the newest and least experienced drivers are banned from this activity," Finnegan said.

A broader proposal, which would have banned the use of voice-activated texting by all drivers, stalled in an Assembly committee in May.

Lawmakers also want to outlaw the use of ticket-buying software for obtaining huge numbers of event tickets, which can be resold at exorbitant prices, before the general public can place orders.

The measure is aimed at "bots," robotic programs "that jump ahead of the line and create instant sellouts before the average customer has a chance," Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) told his colleagues. "This bill works to protect consumers."

Assemblyman Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) sought the legislation. If Brown signs it, California would make it a misdemeanor, subject to up to six months in jail and special civil fines of up to $2,500, to use software to circumvent the security of ticket-selling websites to make mass purchases.

"This will help deter people who are using technology to essentially deprive the general public of access to entertainment," Pan said in an interview.

The measure is supported by California's five major league baseball teams, NBCUniversal and Consumer Action, a national advocacy group. Pan said sports teams and artists have been frustrated that many of the best tickets wind up in the hands of scalpers.

The measure, AB 329, also had the support of ticket companies, including StubHub and Ticketmaster. The latter firm is "delighted" that the bill passed the Legislature, said spokeswoman Jacqueline Peterson, adding it is "but one step in combating nefarious scalping practices."

Ticketmaster is looking for other ways to make sure fans get full access to tickets, she said.

In other matters Tuesday, the Senate voted to waive legislative rules so that the upper house can consider a new bill introduced by leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

The measure would provide $200 million annually for increased rehabilitation and mental illness and drug treatment to reduce the state prison population by about 9,600 inmates over the next three years.

melanie.mason@latimes.com

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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