Voice Texting Bill

A texting-while-driving measure that is being called the “Freedom to Communicate” bill has been signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown. While it is still officially illegal to text or email while driving in the state, there is a technical modification that allows the communication to continue.

The Freedom to Communicate bill allows voice-activated cell phone technology to send text messages and emails, so that drivers can remain compliant with hands-free laws and still communicate. State Assembly member Jeff Miller of Orange County sponsored this voice texting bill, saying that it is not fair to keep so many Californians who spend much of their time on the road, away from communication and out of touch. He claims that the law will “allow Californians to communicate safely and responsibly while on the road.

California’s anti-texting law has accounted for a 47% drop in cell phone-related deaths, and police officers are going to continue to enforce distracted driving laws in hopes that anti-texting laws continue to show positive numbers.

Opponents of the new law recognize that even with voice technology, cell-phone users are required to press a button to start and stop messages, which requires them to take their eyes away from the road ahead of them. The National Safety Council has called for a repeal, saying that distraction remains present with the new law. Janet Froetscher, CEO of the National Safety Council, said “There is no research or evidence that indicates voice-activated technologies eliminate or even reduce the distraction to the driver’s mind.” Currently, the bill is set to go into effect January 1, 2013.

San Diego accident attorneys Stephen Estey & Mike Bomberger have handled numerous auto accident cases and know that cell phones and text messages account for the largest part of distracted driving accidents. Voice texting is still another form of texting and will still prove to be a distraction, even though the driver will have their hands on the wheel.

Top 10 Distracted Driving Activities

Distracted driving occurs any time a driver takes their eyes off the road, their hands off the wheel or their mind off the task of driving. Distracted driving is a factor in more than one million car crashes and 16% of fatal crashes every year. Drivers engage in this type of multitasking behavior during more than half of their time on the road, and studies show that almost 80% of all crashes occurred when the driver took his or her eyes away from the road ahead of them.

According to a joint study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the following are the top 10 driver distractions:

1. Using a wireless device, such as a cell phone: With technology at our fingertips, using cell phones while driving can be tempting. Cell phones aren’t just for making phone calls anymore. Other highly distracting behaviors like texting, updating social media statuses and checking email endanger you as the driver and other drivers on the road. Texting while driving takes the driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, and increases the chances of a crash by 23%.

2. Talking and interacting with passengers: Especially when drivers have children in the car, interacting with passengers can be highly distracting. Fussing with seat belts while on the road and engaging in conversation can take your hands off the wheel and your mind off the task of driving.

3. Reaching for objects inside the vehicle:  Cell phones falling under seats, rolling water bottles, out-of-reach cd’s and crying children in the back seat are all dangerous distractions that must be dealt with when the car is in the parked position.

4. Programming radio stations or tinkering with dashboard controls: Changing the station, temperature and programming your GPS are all behaviors that take your eyes off the road.

5. Personal hygiene and beautification-related activities: Using an electric razor, brushing your hair and applying makeup are all activities that should take place at home in the bathroom, not in a moving vehicle.

6. Eating and drinking: Eating, drinking and movements related to consumption are distracting for drivers. This includes unwrapping a burger, opening a soda can and cleaning up the mess you are likely to cause by eating and drinking in the vehicle.

7. External distractions: Looking at objects outside the vehicle, also known as “rubbernecking,” can occur when there is an accident, a funny billboard or beautiful scenery.

8. Talking to oneself or singing

9. Smoking


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Distracted Driving in Florida

Although some ground was covered with Senator Nancy Detert’s proposed 2012 texting while driving ban bill (Senate Bill 416) which advanced through four votes in the Senate, Florida remains one of 11 states that currently does not have any distracted driving prohibitions.

SB 416 was amended from Detert’s original 2011 bill in an attempt to make it more attractive to resistant lawmakers, however SB 416 was never even considered. Current House speaker Dean Cannon opposes “one more layer of prohibitive behavior” by the state government. Even though Florida state records show that during the first 10 months of 2011 electronic distraction caused 2,218 accidents with 145 of those linked specifically to texting while driving, Cannon considers that there are many other distracted behaviors that are at least as dangerous as texting while driving. He maintains that texting should therefore not be singled out.

Republican Will Weatherford will be the next House speaker, and is considered to be open to new ideas. Proponents of distracted driving bans like Sen. Detert and Rep. Irv Slosberg who has filed several pieces of distracted driving legislation, remain hopeful that Weatherford will consider texting while driving bans with more weight than Cannon.

A new survey shows that more than 70% of Florida voters are in support of a statewide ban on text messaging while driving, with Democrats appearing to be more in favor of distracted driving legislation than Republicans.

Bills introduced between 2009 and 2011 were rejected or ignored, as well as five bills in 2012 in addition to the most recent SB416. Dead 2012 legislation includes SB122 that would require driving schools to have course content related to dangers of distracted driving, HB 299 which would completely ban texting while driving, HB 39 to require cited motorists cited for traffic offenses while using handheld wireless communication to appear before a “designated official,” and SB 930/HB 187 which would ban underage drivers from using handheld cell phones.

According to Daytona Beach law firm Politis & Matovina the banning of handheld devices could significantly lower the amount of distracted driving accidents seen in Florida.

Texting & Driving

It comes as no surprise that texting and driving is a cocktail for disaster, but according to a recent study conducted by State Farm Insurance teenage drivers believe that the single best way to deter the practice was to get in a car crash or know someone who has. This comes as discouraging news to the companies, families and national department of transportation that has begun a series of efforts to deter distracted driving. State officials have likened texting while driving to drinking a bottle of liquor in the vehicle. In fact texting while driving is like having consumed four beers or driving the entire length of a football field- blindfolded. Those who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be involved in a car accident.

Wireless company AT&T is asking people to sign a “It Can Wait” pledge in their community colleges and local high schools. Those who sign pledge to never text and drive again. It is part of a statewide anti-texting campaign launched by AT&T in addition to the release of a series of emotional documentaries of the people involved in texting and driving accidents. The commercials, which are distributed on popular youth sites such as Pandora and Youtube, are aimed to show the devastating effects texting while driving can have and to give a face to its victims.

Thankfully 80% of teenage drivers surveyed believed that harsher punishments and increased police enforcement would deter them from texting and driving in the future. September 19 is now officially “No Text on Board Pledge” Day. Students and adults alike are encouraged to pledge to not text and drive for the entire month.

Each year there are more than 100,000 vehicular accidents caused by someone who is texting while driving. At a local high school’s pledge event Tennessee Rep. Jon Lundberg encouraged drivers who are tempted to text while driving to remember, “It can always wait.”

One Year Anniversary of Cell Phone Ban in Manitoba


Although a ban in Manitoba has been in place for one year now, Manitobans are still talking and texting behind the wheel of a car. A CAA Manitoba survey states that 99.4 percent of the respondents had still seen motorists talking or texting behind the wheel and 30 percent admit to talking on their phone while driving.

The survey also shows that 68 percent of all respondents believe violators will not be caught and ticketed by police. Liz Peters, CAA Manitoba’s Public and Government Affairs Manager, admits that the enforcement is hard because police and RCMP have to be sure the driver is first violating the law to pull them over. She does say that 2,600 tickets have been issued in the City of Winnipeg, and also understands that the RCMP has also been active in rural areas. Peters believes compliance from citizens will be achieved after more offenders have been caught.

58 percent of all respondents believed demerit points should also be added to a $200 fine.
The survey interviewed 11,000 Manitobans. 48 percent owned a Bluetooth, but 38 percent use it “only on occasion”.

Peters feels that the study results show the opportunity to advance public awareness. She believes that people know about the law, but don’t know how dangerous talking or texting on a cell phone is while operating a vehicle. She notes that you are 23 times more likely to get in an accident while texting behind the wheel of a car.

Overall, Peters does feel that the law is effective but will take time to sink in with the public.

Respondents from the survey show that 49 percent say they believe the ban has made our roads safer.

Ford Supports Ban on Cell Phones While Driving

Ford Motor says it supports the federal ban of use of cell phones while driving. Ford now has a Sync hands-free voice-operating switching system which allows drivers to use voice commands to control all audio outputs and navigation as well as making phone calls when cell phones are connected to the Sync system.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy introduced last month the Safe Drivers Act of 2011. The proposed act involves the Department of Transportation to set a new national standard of prohibiting all usage of cell phones except under certain circumstances or emergencies.

Ford is currently the first vehicle maker to support the bill. “Distracted driving is an important issue, and that’s why Ford became the first automaker to support proposed legislation banning handheld texting while driving in 2009 and why we are proud to support Rep. McCarthy’s legislation,” said Pete Lawson, Ford’s vice president of government affairs.

McCarthy’s legislation allows devices that allow the use of hands-free products like Sync.

The Department of Transportation is also going to be conducting a study as to whether mobile phones and other devices are distracting while using a hands-free device.

“Ford believes hands-free, voice-activated technology significantly reduces that risk by allowing drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road,” Lawson said.

Penalties for Cell Phone Usage While Driving

Texting and driving is illegal in New York, and fines are now higher than ever.

“When you hear that noise go off it’s almost like its suspense you have to know who it is, you got to know what they want and I know for me I get excited every time I hear it so I look and I see,” says Brent Fallon of Endicott about cell phones.

Addictions grow just as fast as technology.

Fatal accidents from texting and driving now have New York State charging $150 and adding three points to your license if pulled over and ticketed, and police will no longer need a traffic violation to pull someone over if they suspect an individual of using a cell phone.

A local city department is now implementing new procedures to try and catch violators.

“We’ll probably start off with some unmarked car, these cars will be out at the traffic lights looking for people text messaging while they’re sitting at the light, and as they pull away the officer’s can go ahead and enforce the new law,” says Lt. Gerald Mullins of the Vestal Police Department.

Mullins also states that officers look for the same signs as drunk driving, like swerving.

“Well it will be much easier to make the charge for one, I regard texting as more dangerous than cell phone talking because you have to completely take your eyes off the road to sit there and type,” Broome County Sheriff David Harder says.

“Frankly people think that they’re the exception to the rule and I’m glad that there is a law against it because it is deadly to do that and I always remind my kids about it and other kids too,” says Barbara Schwerd of Westchester.

The new law applies to any use of all options cell phones carry, but police, firefighters, and EMTs are exempt from it.

The law also does not penalize the use of a handheld device stuck to a surface or a GPS.  For more information on handheld device law and the legal penelties of disobying these laws, contact Estey & Bomberger, LLP for more information.

Driver Can’t Remember Crash While Texting and Driving

The driver of a car that drove into a Richmond business on Tuesday says he cannot recall any of the events leading up to his accident.

Lucas Harrison, 21, of Connersville described to police that he was texting and driving and the next thing he remembers is waking up inside his smashed car with two witnesses next to him outside the vehicle.

“I blacked out, and I didn’t come to until after the accident occurred,” Harrison said Wednesday. “The police officer said I sent a text message four minutes before he got the call (about the accident). And I don’t know if it is some kind of temporary amnesia or something, but I really don’t remember what happened.”

Harrison was driving a Chevy Cavalier which drove passed the center turning lane and two lanes of oncoming traffic, and then jumped over a curb, narrowly missed a sign post of businesses, but smashed into Grandview Medical Equipment through the retail area, out the back of the building, and coming to rest in a parking lot with the back of his car underneath the back wall of the building.
Luckily no injuries occurred.

Harrison passed a sobriety test by paramedics at the scene of the accident. He said he only had a minor scratch on his left arm.  Contact Estey & Bomberger in Los Angeles for a free legal consultation if you or a loved one is ever involved in an accident involving the negligence of someone else.

“I really wish I remembered what happened, but I don’t,” said Harrison, and told police that he “must have hit his head on the roof of the car and got knocked out because he remembers nothing after hitting the curb.”

“I am happy nobody was hurt,” he said. “God was with me because I don’t remember going across the lanes of traffic and I don’t remember anything about the accident.”

Harrison hopes that everyone can learn from his mistake. A $500 traffic citation for using his cell phone while driving was issued to him. Indiana had just banned texting while driving on Friday.

“It definitely gives me a new awareness of the dangers of texting and driving,” Harrison said. “You might think nothing is going to happen, but you never know when anything is going to happen. It is always important to keep your eyes on the road.

“It is sad that I had to be the one to set the example, but I hope everyone can learn from this example and not text while they are driving. It only takes a second with your eyes off the road for something bad to happen.”

Driver on Route 141 Crash Caused from Texting While Driving

A 19-year-old driver was texting on her cell phone driving on Route 141 Wednesday morning and lost control of her vehicle.

Initial reports state that the driver was a juvenile, however records from the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office say the driver was Courtney Conrady, 19, from Stockton Springs. She was summoned on part of failing to maintain a vehicle after the accident.

Conrady was driving a 1998 Pontiac Grand Prix after 10 a.m. on Wednesday and told officer deputies Gerry Lincoln and Darrin Moody that she “wasn’t paying attention” down Route 141 while she was driving.

The vehicle apparently had drifted into the next lane and Conrady had overcorrected the turn which sent her Pontiac off the road. The vehicle did not flip over and remained on all four wheels the whole time.
Conrady admitted the next day to texting on her cell phone when she looked up and saw she was drifting into the oncoming lane of traffic.

Lincoln and Moody firefighters from the Belfast Fire Department assisted at the scene near the intersection.

Lincoln said the vehicle had minor damage, but Conrady remained unhurt.

Pilot Programs Prove Effective With Texting/Talking While Driving

NHTSA’s results prove that texting and talking on cell phones while driving have reduced by one third in Syracuse and Hartford due to their new pilot programs.

The government has begun to enforce stricter laws with the use of cell phones and driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has supported two pilot programs from April 2010 to April 2011 in Syracuse, New York and Hartford, Connecticut, which has a new campaign called “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other,” similar to the successful “Click it or Ticket” or drunk driving campaigns.

The NHTSA provided $200,000 for each of two pilot programs in each state, while the state was also supported with an additional $100,000. The campaigns use law enforcement crack down, insurance companies, and state officials to provide public seminars and newer laws to help keep citizens aware of the dangers of texting and driving. The year-long program was proven to be very effective.

The results show that each state had reduced their cell phone usage while behind the wheel by at least one-third. Syracuse declined about one-third, while Hartford had a 57 percent drop in handheld cell phone usage and a 72 percent drop in texting.

Researchers looked at Hartford and Syracuse before the programs began and found that Hartford had double the amount of drivers using cell phones then Syracuse. Texting while driving fell from 2.8 to 1.9 percent in Syracuse while Hartford had a drop from 3.9 to 1.1 percent.

“These findings show that strong laws, combined with high visible police enforcement, can significantly reduce dangerous texting and cell phone use behind the wheel,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “Based on these results, it is crystal clear that those who try to minimize this dangerous behavior are making a serious error in judgement, especially when a half a million people are injured and thousands more are killed in distracted driving accidents.”