Hands-Free Texting While Driving Legalized In California
July 15, 2012

Hands-Free Texting While Driving Legalized In California

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Among the 18 bills signed into law Friday by California Governor Jerry Brown was one legalizing the use of voice-operated, hands-free texting and emailing while operating a motor vehicle.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the law formerly known as Assembly Bill 1536 will go into law on January 1, 2013. It will allow drivers to "dictate, send or listen to text-based communications as long as they do so using technology specifically designed to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation."

Brown's approval of the law comes three years after California banned using electronic wireless communications devices to write, read, or send text-based communications while operating a car, truck, or other motor vehicle.

The new regulation will revise section 23123.5 of the California Vehicle Code to contain language allowing the use of voice-operated, hands-free systems to "dictate, send, or listen to a text-based communication" while driving, MSNBC.com's Devin Coldewey explained.

"Today marks a huge victory for drivers as this bill will allow Californians to communicate safely and responsibly while on the road," Orange County Assemblyman Jeff Miller, the author of the bill, said in a statement, according to Coldewey.

"I can relate to the frustration of many Californians who were unable to communicate with friends, family and business partners while driving because it is currently against the law to operate text-based functions while driving," Miller added, according to the Los Angeles Times.

However, it remains uncertain the degree to which the legislation applies to smartphones and similar devices.  A representative of Miller's office reportedly contacted MSNBC.com to clarify that the bill applied to in-dash navigation and messaging systems and not phones.

That said, the representative added that the authors of the bill "purposely left the language open to apply to other devices, and although voice-powered smartphone apps like Siri weren't being thought of specifically, they do fit within the bill's language," Coldewey wrote in an update to his original report. "The representative said the bill is not meant to be taken as an endorsement of texting while driving."

In order to be in compliance with the law, the phone must be synced to a Bluetooth earpiece, dashboard app, or other device before starting up the car, Mike Rosenberg of MercuryNews.com said. With the device and the phone operational, the driver will need to say "text" followed by the name of the recipient, the message, and then the word "send." When receiving texts, the earpiece or speaker should automatically read the content of the message to the driver, the California Highway Patrol said, according to Rosenberg.