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California Texting While Driving Law Update: 2013 Laws

Craig McClellan

In 2012, the California legislature created an exemption to the state's texting-while-driving ban. The exemption, which went into effect on January 1, 2013, allows drivers to use hands-free devices to text, such as Bluetooth devices and in-dash messaging systems.

California Vehicle Code, section 23123.5 now reads: "A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using an electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication, unless the electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation to dictate, send, or listen to a text-based communication, and it is used in that manner while driving."

Assembly Bill 1536 may seem like a fair compromise for drivers who have felt cut-off by the new law. Yet, is it safe?

The National Safety Council does not believe so and has called on the 2013 legislature to repeal the exemption. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) would agree. In 2011 and 2012, it has urged a full ban on the use of nonemergency portable electronic devices (PEDs) while driving. This includes everything from texting to talking on a cell phone to updating Facebook. According to the NTBS, "No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life."

Many studies have shown that using a Bluetooth is not substantially safer than a hand-held phone. While texting and driving is one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving, simply talking on a phone -- or to a phone -- can reduce a driver's mental attention by more than 30 percent.

Texting while driving, in any form, is dangerous and can lead to serious accidents. Whether legal or illegal, if someone causes an accident while texting and driving, he or she should be held accountable.

Learn more by visiting our page on texting while driving in San Diego.