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Lawmaker gives thumbs down to 11-week-old hands-free texting law

Jerry Brown

It's been only 11 weeks since an exception allowing hands-free texting while driving took effect in California, but some lawmakers are giving it a thumbs down and want the change repealed.

Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) has sponsored AB 313, which would disallow even hands-free texting for drivers. The bill is due to be discussed in the Assembly Transportation Committee on April 8.

Frazier is talking about the kind of Bluetooth, voice-activated system that will read your text messages out loud and and allow you to dictate a reply.

"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?”

California had banned motorists from texting while driving in 2009. But in July of last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 1536, which allowed the exception of hands-free texting.

The law went into effect in January.

Frazier's push to eliminate the exception comes as new studies say the risk of even hands-free texting could be greater than previously believed.

One such study came from a collaboration among the Australian universities of Wollongong and Victoria, the Swinburne University of Technology, the Institute for Breathing and Sleep, and the University of Barcelona.

Its results showed that there were some situations in which the distraction of texting was worse than the impairment that comes from driving while drunk.

The study said that hands-free technology did not appear to significantly reduce risks.

The study also said that advanced hands-free technology ought to be studied further to know how the practice should be regulated.

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