Texting Bans

Calif. to Treat Smart Phones in Cars as Just Slightly Less Dangerous than Loaded Guns

Don't drive and … touch … anything?


Texting and driving
Petarneychev / Dreamstime.com

The end of the year brings the whole host of reminders about the new laws that state legislatures have passed through the last term and are finally coming into effect.

California is fertile ground for legislative meddling in lives, and the start of every year brings stories about the hundreds of new rules coming into play. January will see new reasons for police to extract money from citizens—I mean, "protect public safety." A new state law makes it illegal to even hold your smart phone while you're driving. The Sacramento Bee (which opens its piece by simply asserting without evidence that "distracted driving has reached dangerous levels") explains AB 1785:

The law is designed to stop people from holding their phones for a variety of uses that have become popular in recent years, including checking and posting on Facebook, using Snapchat, scrolling through Spotify or Pandora playlists, typing addresses into the phone's mapping system, or making videos and taking photos.

A California Office of Traffic Safety study this year determined that 1 out of 8 drivers on the road is paying as much attention to his or her smartphone as to the road. State road safety officials estimate that some form of distracted driving is a factor in 80 percent of crashes. That's prompted numerous education and enforcement efforts in California aimed at reducing distracted driving.

Note the subtle shifting of facts in the second paragraph. More drivers are paying attention to their smartphones, causing distractions. Distractions factor into 80 percent of all crashes. But there is a huge failure there to actually connect smartphone use to an increase in crashes.

Crash stats had been going down in recent years but the trend had recently started reversing. A very, very relevant contributor to the shift is that more people are driving more miles as the economy has recovered. That's naturally, statistically going to lead to more collisions. Ed Krayewski looked over the fatal collision stats back in September and found the evidence that phones are making driving more dangerous underwhelming.

But politicians see little downside or negative consequence in passing laws that make people feel safer even if they don't, so here we are. The law does allow use of smartphones with voice activation and to touch the phone simply for the purpose of activating or deactivating an app, but the phone must also be placed in a mounted spot inside the car.

So anybody sitting there with the smartphone in their lap while having their GPS recite instructions to them is going to be breaking the law, even if they aren't holding it up to their ear or being "distracted" by it. California drivers could face additional fines if they get pulled over even when they aren't using a phone in a way that distracts them simply because it doesn't comply with the very restrictive rules on how the state says you should attach the phone to your car: "either a 7-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield on the passenger side, or a 5-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield to the driver's left." The fine is $20 for the first offense and $50 for each additional offense.

If only there weren't some sort of way for police to evaluate and cite people for behavior behind the wheel that is dangerous to others that is not attached to an absurdly overbroad ban on a piece of technology, blaming it for the behavior and not the driver. Maybe something about those who engage in reckless driving habits without regard to others? Something like that?

Read more about the new law here and wonder if it'll still apply when we're all using self-driving cars.

NEXT: Ford Gets It Right on Self-Driving Cars

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  1. Again #CALEXIT. Get us away from these morons…

    1. This. Give the nanny statists an outlet for their nannyism. Obviously Canada isn’t enough to satiate their hunger.

    2. They’ll be begging for handouts 5 minutes after it happens.

  2. Next up: outlawing having a crying baby in a car seat while you are driving.
    Secede already!

    1. prima facie evidence of child abuse / neglect

  3. Have you ever seen the array of distracting screens in a police car? They all have mobile data terminals that they’re constantly glued to like a 13-year-old girl during an instagram crisis.

    1. They have had training! Have you had training? I didn’t think so! Peasant! Pay your fucking fine!

    2. Police officers have had the necessary training, Fist.

      Even if one gets distracted by his own phone it’s still not his fault if he runs someone over and kills them , because the officer was just out there doing his job, you know, protecting the public.

  4. If only there weren’t some sort of way for police to evaluate and cite people for behavior behind the wheel that is dangerous to others that is not attached to an absurdly overbroad ban on a piece of technology, blaming it for the behavior and not the driver. Maybe something about those who engage in reckless driving habits without regard to others? Something like that?

    These laws are going to work, guys. Got a good feeling about it. Sure, the entirety of human history shows that we’ve yet to come up with the law that people didn’t break a dozen times before breakfast and twice on Sundays if they’ve a good mind to, but this time it’ll work.

    We’ve figured out the trouble, see. All those other laws? We just didn’t phrase them exactly right. This time, though, the phrasing is perfect and we’ve come up with the law that means humans do what they’re told.

    Success is here. Celebrate, mortals – the Enlightenment arrives.

    1. I, for one, share your optimism and excitement. With a supermajority of enlightened beings now controlling the CA senate and assembly, Utopia is within reach.

  5. If only there weren’t some sort of way for police to evaluate and cite people for behavior behind the wheel that is dangerous to others that is not attached to an absurdly overbroad ban on a piece of technology, blaming it for the behavior and not the driver. Maybe something about those who engage in reckless driving habits without regard to others? Something like that?

    You can’t actually hold people accountable for their actions! I mean, it’s unfair to say one person is a better driver than another person, or that some people are just really shitty drivers! That’s not fair! And how do you determine who is or isn’t a good driver?!? That’s like measuring the performance of public school teachers! It can’t be done! Drivers can blame the phone, and teachers can blame the parents! It isn’t their fault! It can’t be their fault! Fault isn’t fair! Someone or something else is always to blame!

    1. I blame Sarcasmic.

  6. I hate when a Kardashian spawns a few blocks over.

    1. I thought that too, until I saw the Pokeman reference.

  7. 1 out of 8 drivers on the road is paying as much attention to his or her smartphone as to the road

    I don’t drive, living in NYC, but in my experience riding with taxi drivers or acquaintances in recent years, it is more like 8 out of 8. Not that there oughtta be a law, but it’s impossible to argue that drivers aren’t way more distracted than ever.

    1. I saw people driving and texting around here, everyday, before they passed a law against it. Guess what? No change.

      1. Because its not being enforced, and the punishment does not fit the crime.

        1. Exactly. There are already laws in place that might get people’s attention if they were enforced. Starting with the fact that the traffic laws in all 54 states (ha) require the driver to maintain control of the vehicle at all times. Reckless driving can be a misdemeanor.

          Personally, I propose tagging distracted drivers as outlaws. The law no longer applies to you, but, it also does not protect you. Game On!

    2. There was a study of distracted driving. Since states have adopted distracted driving laws at different times in different degrees, they compared accident rates before and after adoption, and relative to neighboring states with independent distracted driving laws. The only conclusive evidence was that distracted driving laws slightly increased distracted driving accidents, because now drivers were hiding the phones in their laps instead of holding them up near the steering wheel, and all that looking down was more dangerous than looking near the windshield.

      1. I hold mine up to follow the gps that I use daily going to different jobsites.

        Are they gonna make uber drivers look down at their laps to do their jobs ?

  8. If California truly wanted to improve driver attention, they’d just pull the licenses of anyone who looked Chinese.

    1. I live in Oklahoma; this is not an ethnic problem. The fat stupid rednecks out here have to be reading below the national average of 8th grade, but they are still glued to something on their phones while driving their massive trucks who’s only use as a truck has been to haul the whole fat family to the buffet.

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  10. If it gets people getting back up to the speed limit and moving when the light turns green, I support it.

    1. Greens eventually turn red. You better slow to catch that red. “Virginia is for bad drivers.”

  11. Having my phone mounted on the dashboard will make it more tempting for me to putz around with it. Out of sight is out of mind.

  12. It would appear from the reaction of the moron drifting into my lane who was looking at his smart phone while driving instead of looking at the road that I’m the asshole for honking at him.

    If there aren’t going to be penalties for people being idiots with their phones while driving, then I should be able to shoot them in the face.

    1. Larry for President

  13. Scott Shackford does not seem to see a problem with distracted drivers. He obviously does not share my commute. It IS a problem. We often get only one car through a traffic light that was green long enough to pass at least eight cars, but the lead driver was “distracted”. Lanes hardly matter anymore as cars are wandering all over the road. I don’t know what solution would be effective, if any, but for him to be incredulous that anyone would think this an issue is hard to understand. Perhaps he is too distracted by his smart phone to notice the actions of the cars around him?

    1. Scott’s absence of fact based data should tell you enough.

      Many of those commenting see the problem every day. It’s truly amazing to me the liberties that people will take with their technology while behind the wheel. I’m all about the support of liberty and freedom, but America in general has gone way off the deep end with cell phone usage behind the wheel of an automobile.

      I’m an avid road cyclist and it scares the hell out of me. The things I see are amazing!

      1. I’m an avid road cyclist and it scares the hell out of me.

        I stopped commuter cycling because of the drivers. It wasn’t the distracted driving that got to me, it was the road rage. Some people would make a game of how close they could come to hitting me while cutting me off at a certain intersection.

      2. Your liberty and freedom end where the next guy’s begin. If you wander into a bike lane because your ongoing selfie crotch shot pic conversation is more important than someone else’s life, you deserve to be behind bars with no freedoms. When you take someone elses life out of negligence, you are an oppressor. It’s shocking how few people understand that freedom comes with responsibility and accountability. Freedom of travel is a basic right, but that doesn’t mean you are free to act irresponsibly.

        Wanna know what’s really wrong with our country?

      3. This guy. What he said.

        Because I bought my last motorcycle in 2009, and 2010 is when smart phones really proliferated.

        Where my FZ once once my primary mode of transportation, I now barely ride it because it appears that more people than ever are trying to kill me.

    2. I don’t know what solution would be effective

      How about no warnings and a mandatory $1000 ticket for a first time offense of reckless driving (including not keeping your lane due to distracted driving). Mandatory 30 days in jail and $5000 fine for 2nd offense and suspend the license for a year. Mandatory 6 months in jail and $10k fine for 3rd offense, and a 5 year license suspension. After 3 offenses, it’s treated as attempted reckless murder.

      If people are aware of the risk of distracted driving, and yet still put others’ lives at constant risk, they should bear a really heavy burden for being a life-threatening risk on the road.

      1. Draconian’s punishments don’t work as intended. People are not rational agents they don’t asses risk/reward properly which is one reason that undermines draconian laws.

        1. I disagree.

          Draconian punishments work with intelligent people. No punishments work for idiots, and therefore there should be draconian punishments to keep them isolated from society as much as possible.

          When they learn to play well with others, then they can drive again. With the knowledge that fucking around on their phone when they allege to be driving will put them back into painful isolation again.

  14. I checked the reckless driving link. Damn lenient Cali. No technical definition? Just declare having a phone in the car to be reckless. No need to prove intent or danger to others.

  15. do they not know courts have ruled using the map app is legal?

  16. Where the heck do you people all live where people aren’t staying in their lanes and are sitting through signals and stuff? I see asshole drivers in Oregon (most with California plates), but they’re doing the same kind of asshole stuff that people have always done, speeding and tailgating and merging across 3 lanes of traffic without signaling. (The deliberate kind of merging, not the distracted drifting.) Wherever you people live, I need to make a note to never visit.

    1. Oklahoma.

      Every. Single. Fucking. Time I leave the house, some complete moron is fucking around on their phone and failing to move when the leading left arrow turns green, causing several cars behind them to sit through another red light.

      Every. Fucking. Time.

      Just 10 minutes ago before getting home I passed a car that was sitting toward the REAR of a left hand turn lane and looking at his phone…left arrow was green and there were absolutely no cars in front of him, but no one else could get into the left turn lane because he was blocking it. He couldn’t have been more dissociated from the act of driving if he were jerking off on his couch, yet there he was behind the wheel blocking traffic.

      I can deal with tailgaters and speeders; they don’t cause me to sit through multiple cycles of the traffic light.

    2. California.

      Idiots reading their phones rather than driving are the majority here. Sure, you see no correlation to fatalities, because most of the accidents caused by the phones are low speed, stop and go traffic. Been rear-ended while watching the person behind me playing with her phone as she rolled into the back of my truck. I see it everyday. I honk at every red light now, as a matter of habit to remind other drivers that they are in fact driving, not socializing on the ether.

      I don’t understand it. Why are people doing this social networking crap? Almost nothing other people do is actually interesting…

  17. The reason there are more crashes is NOT to do with smart devices… it is because drivers, particularly in California, refuse to allow sufficient stopping distance. Following too closely IS the single largest cause of freeway and city crashes. And the cops REFUSE to ticket for this dangerous practice, in fact, most LE do it themselves. Hey, they think radar tickets are easier because they’ve got the printout from the machine? Well, with their dashcams they’ve also got irrefutable evidence of one car too close to another. If nothing else, a frame count can determine the actual distance in feet and inches between two vehicles, and speed is also recorded, thus following distance for that speed can be determined… when one car is two lengths (32 feet) behind another at 70 mph, it is TOO CLOSE and should be ticketed. But how many get written? VERY FEW.


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