By Ronald D. White
10:33 AM EST, February 18, 2013
There are already a number of laws on the books in various states designed to thwart so-called distracted driving and teens and texting. But one California lawmaker thinks those laws must change to keep up with technological developments.
Under current California law, drivers younger than 18 are already prohibited from talking on their mobile phones, even if they use a hands-free device or mobile service device. Another state law already prohibits texting while driving.
But California state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) recently introduced a bill supported by the California Assn. of Highway Patrol that would go further to stop teens from texting.
SB 194 "clarifies provisions of existing law related to the prohibition against teen (under 18 years of age) texting while driving to include new technologies, even if equipped with a voice-operated device," according to a fact sheet released by Galgiani's chief of staff, Trent Hager.
SB 194 would broaden existing laws to cover any electronic wireless communications device.
This means the law would encompass relatively new additions to automotive technology such as Siri voice integration, which is being extended to more and more models this year.
It would also cover other hands-free options, such as Bluetooth voice buttons available on some car model steering columns that can be used to control paired devices.
"Driving a motor vehicle involves manual, visual and cognitive tasks," the SB 194 fact sheet says.
"A hazardous situation occurs when teen drivers perform non-driving activities that divert their attention from the primary task of driving," the fact sheet adds. "Distractions from using a voice-operated device endanger the driver and bystander safety."
In Florida, one of the few states that still does not prohibit texting on mobile phones while driving, legislators are supposedly considering a ban.
In some states where teens and texting and other violations are already banned, some lawmakers say the penalties must be more severe.
Proposed legislation in Virginia would increase the fine for texting and driving from $20 to $250 for a first offense.
In Oregon, the penalty for driving and texting could increase from $500 to $2,000.
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