State ban on hands-free texting proposed by assemblyman


O'Von Pettaway is among the thousands of California drivers who texts hands-free while driving.

With long commutes and traffic jams, it's become a way of life in California since hand-free texting while driving became legal last year.

"It's the 21st century. It's about convenience," said Pettaway. "It's about efficiency, and that's a convenient and efficient way of communicating when I'm in my car."

But a year into the law, a freshman state lawmaker now wants to make hands-free texting illegal.

"The average time for looking and being distracted is about 4.6 seconds. And at 55 miles an hour, that's almost a football field that you're not paying attention to the drivers around you," said state Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Oakley). "And to me that's not OK."

Frazier cites a new Virginia Tech study that shows hands-free texting is actually just as dangerous as traditional texting. Researchers found voice-controlled texting required higher mental demand and longer glances away from the road.

Frazier also laments numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: nearly 1,000 deaths and 24,000 injuries per year involve cellphone use as a major distraction.

But critics wonder if this proposed ban opens the door to more restrictions.

"If you ban one hands-free thing, next step is going to be banning hands-free talking?" said hands-free texter Christopher Pfenning.

Frazier says for now, no. He's just trying to make roads safer after having lost a daughter to a crash unrelated to texting.

"As a father who lost a child in a car accident, I don't want anybody to ever have to go through what I did," said Frazier.

Pettaway, though, thinks it's more "nanny government."

"I think you can multi-task in a car and still be an effective, safe driver," said Pettaway.

The bill should get its first hearing this spring.

Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.