California Bill Would Ban Young Drivers From Using Hands-Free Phone Devices While Driving

Jill McLaughlin
By Jill McLaughlin
January 31, 2023California
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A California bill proposed this week could make it illegal for anyone under 21 to use a cell phone while driving.

Motorists under 18 are currently forbidden from using a cell phone while driving, regardless of whether it is operated using hands-free devices. Assembly Bill (AB) 276, introduced Jan. 23, would expand that age group.

Assemblywoman Diane Dixon (R-Newport Beach) told The Epoch Times the proposal aims to save lives.

“I introduced AB 276 to do two things. Primarily, as a mother and grandmother, I know the importance of raising awareness about distracted driving. Second, it offers a solution to incentivize inexperienced drivers to keep their eyes on the road and away from their phone screens,” Dixon said.

The proposal allows for exceptions when such usage is required by work, or in the case of emergencies including making calls to a law enforcement agency, health care provider, fire department, or other emergency services.

Officers would not be able to pull a driver over for the offense but could issue a traffic ticket if the driver was first stopped for another possible violation.

Drivers violating the rule would face a $20 fine for the first offense and $50 for any additional tickets.

Data from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association shows people under 21 are 1.6 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than older drivers, which is why, Dixon said, the bill targets that age group.

Also, in 2020, more than 6,600 people were killed or injured in car crashes caused by teen drivers between 15 and 19 years old, according to the California Highway Patrol’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System.

“This age group has the largest ratio of drivers who were distracted at the time of the fatal crashes,” Dixon said. “The goal of AB 276 is to keep our roads safe for all drivers.”

A 2021 survey by the California Office of Traffic Safety found that 74 percent of Californians identified distracted driving—while “texting or talking” on the phone particularly—as one of their biggest traffic safety concerns.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 3,142 people were killed in 2020 in “motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.”

An estimated 7.6 percent of drivers used some type of phone, either handheld or hands-free, “at any typical daylight moment” in 2021, according to the administration’s statistics (pdf), which is under the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The bill will possibly be heard in committee Feb. 23.

From The Epoch Times

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