For those of you who don't follow the haps in Sacramento, here's the basic story. On Monday, California's state assembly overwhelmingly passed SB33, proposed by democratic state senator Joe Simitian of Palo Alto (land of the affluent teen), which according to the San Jose Mecury News, "makes it an infraction for those younger than 18 to use a cell phone, pager, text-messaging device or laptop while driving."
Simitian is also the force behind a bill that restricts ALL drivers from using cell phones unless they are using a hands-free device. That bill has already been signed by the Governator and goes into effect next July. However, that particular law seems rather toothless, once you hear that the fine for a first offender is only $20. Heck, you can burn through $20 worth of minutes/texting in the time it takes to say "M I busted?".
Despite the tiny fines, such laws seems like no-brainers to me. Because even if you don't know the statistics on cell phones and driving (2,600 deaths and 330,00 injuries in the U.S. annually), you most certainly have had some sort of run-in or near-miss on the road with another driver who is distracted because they're yakking on their cell.
Not to be sarcastic (who, me?), but why stop at cell phones?
A poll taken by the PEMCO Insurance Company and quoted by Drivers.com found that the number one driving distraction was eating while driving, followed by cell phone use. That frightening fact would seem to suggest that the nation's drive-thru's are contributing not only to the traffic accident rate, but also to its rising obesity statistics.
The PEMCO poll also found that "some 25 percent of all drivers say they have steered with no hands at some time in their driving lives, while 14 percent say they have applied makeup or shaved." Admit it - you've either witnessed this, or done it, yourself. Another top distraction found in the PEMCO study was reading while driving.
I find it interesting that no-one has mentioned prohibiting the single biggest driving distraction I encounter on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis: my own kids.
If they're not bickering, they're chatting away non-stop, or asking me to change the radio station, or if I've got something for them to drink or eat, or where are we going-what are we doing-why can't Joe have a playdate now, etc....etc....etc.... They are not only a distraction - but at times they drive me completely insane while I'm operating this deadly piece of heavy machinery that masquerades as a family mini-van
But chances are pretty slim that California will make carpooling kids a crime. Darn. Looks like I won't be able to pick the radio station for another 10 years......
What do you think of California's proposed cell phone ban for teen drivers? What distracts you most when your behind the wheel? Click below on "Comments" and join the conversation.