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Monday, 31 March 2008 01:16

Hands-Free Driving Law To Take Effect

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slide20.jpgOn July 1, California joins five other states and the District of Columbia in requiring adult drivers to go hands-free while talking on the phone. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Joe Simitian of Palo Alto, said he’s sure the new law will save lives. “You don’t have to stop talking on your cell phone, but use a headset or use a speaker system, and you will be fine,” Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said when he signed the bill into law in September 2006. “We have so many folks driving on curvy roads around Amador County, and at night. On Highway 88 and in the snow. If you’re distracted talking it just makes things worse,” says one concerned Amador resident.

 One survey found up to 73 percent of Americans at least occasionally use cell phones while driving. A 2003 study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis estimated that there were nearly 2,600 deaths and 12,000 serious-to-critical injuries a year in crashes involving drivers using cell phones. Violators of the new law will be fined $20 for the first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses. But there is also a growing body of evidence suggesting that requiring adult drivers to use hands-free devices with their cell phones will do little to reduce crashes. Supporting research shows that being a distracted driver is not necessarily about having both hands on the wheel, it’s more about focusing attention on the road. “There’s a common misperception that hands-free phones are safer when the research clearly suggests that they they’re both equally risky,” said Arthur Goodwin, a researcher at the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center.

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