Sacramento, CA - Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) has introduced a bill (Assembly Bill 313) that will outlaw voice-activated, hands-free texting. State law allows drivers to send and receive text messages or emails while driving so long as they communicate through a hands-free or voice-operated system.
“Study after study has shown that all distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety,” said Frazier. “Distracted drivers cause more than 5,400 deaths (15 per day) and about half a million injuries (1200 per day) every year. Among those killed or injured in these crashes, nearly 1,000 deaths and 24,000 injuries included cell phone use as the major distraction.”
A new Virginia Tech study shows that voice-activated texting, designed to allow drivers to keep both hands on the wheel, may actually be just as dangerous as texting on a hand-held cellphone while behind the wheel. The study found voice-controlled texting resulted in higher mental demand and more frequent, longer glances away from the roadway.
“AB 313 is an important fix to one of the most dangerous traffic laws I have seen in my lifetime,” said Dr. Richard Harkness, psychologist and traffic safety researcher. “Traffic safety experts know that texting while driving – whether hands-free or hand-held – poses a significant increase in crash risk. Estimates are that the drivers who are texting have an 8 to 22 percent greater risk of car crashes. Statistically speaking, texting while driving is far more dangerous than driving drunk.”
“Research suggests that there is little or no difference in the crash risk of drivers using hand-held or voice-operated devices because both contribute to the cognitive distraction that causes “inattention blindness”. No respected study has ever indicated that texting while driving is safe. Allowing hands-free texting is a very predictable disaster waiting to happen,” Harkness concluded.
The National Safety Council, a roadside safety organization, supports banning the use of a voice-operated system to write, send and read text messages and emails while driving. The group says that even with hands-free devices, drivers can be distracted.
“Safe driving requires a driver’s full attention – hands on the wheel, eyes on the road and mind on the task of driving,” said Janet Froetscher, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “There is no research or evidence that indicates voice-activated technologies eliminate or even reduce the distraction to the drivers’ mind. Unless such research becomes available, texting laws, such as California’s, should not be weakened by legalizing the use of voice-to-text technologies.”
"Who needs to do texting of any kind while driving?" said Frazier. “Is a text message really worth the risk of injuring or killing someone?”
To contact Assemblymember Jim Frazier or receive updates on AB 313, please visit his website at http://www.asmdc.org/members/a11/
Lawrence Cooper (916) 319-2011