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State, federal officials urge hands-free phone ban for CA drivers


California is one of the most progressive states in the U.S. when it comes to taking a legal stand against distracted driving. We were one of the first states to pass laws making it illegal to do certain things while driving, such handling a cellphone to talk or text, eating, combing your hair or putting on makeup. A 2017 law went even further, banning drivers from holding cellphones at all.

The alternative is for drivers to use their smartphone hands-free, which is currently still legal in California. But experts agree that hands-free cellphone use behind the wheel still affects drivers’ ability to focus on safety. With April being National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, it may be time to consider an outright ban on talking/texting and driving.

Campaign to end hands-free distracted driving

Earlier this month, officials from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the California Highway Patrol and the nonprofit Impact Teen Drivers held an event up at the Sacramento State campus encouraging lawmakers to expand the anti-distracted driving law to include hands-free use.

Studies have shown that using your voice to control your phone is still a significant distraction, even if your eyes never leave the road. Splitting your attention affects your ability to perceive sudden changes in road conditions, such as the driver in front of you slamming on their brakes. “Hands-free is not risk-free,” declared the NTSB official. In fact, her agency has been pushing states to ban hands-free cellphone use while driving since 2011.

Younger drivers prone to phone use

While distracted drivers can be any age, teens and young adults tend to be the worst offenders. A CHP officer predicted it would take time for younger generations to get used to the idea of leaving their phones in their pockets while driving. He compared it to when buckling your seat belt became the law in California in the early 1980s. At first, some people complained, but by 2016, nearly everybody complied, reducing the risk of dying in an auto accident.

If you have been hit by a distracted driver and seriously injured, you could have a hard time paying your medical bills, especially if you are retired. Make sure you speak to a personal injury attorney before you sign anything from the insurance company.