Earlier this month, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill some say detracts from previously established distracted driving legislation. With nationwide concern over this dangerous trend at an all-time high, some are questioning whether this new law will have a negative impact on the safety of our streets.

The new law, which takes effect on January 1, 2013, allows so-called hands-free texting while operating a vehicle. While it is still reportedly illegal to send text messages using Siri, motorists are now allowed to dictate and send text messages through other voice-activated devices. For instance, some newer cars have programs that allow drivers to operate their cellphones through the speakers in the vehicle. Additionally, drivers can now use Bluetooth headsets to dictate texts. These programs also typically have the technology to read incoming text messages, without the driver having to pick up his or her cellphone.

This law alters California regulations regarding cellphone usage established in the past few years. In July 2008, California passed a law banning the use of hand-held cellphones while driving. To add clarity, in January 2009, the Wireless Communications Device Law was passed, which prohibited California motorists from writing, sending and reading text messages on a cellphone while operating a motor vehicle.

Some experts are concerned that the new law will result in an increase in car accidents caused by distracted driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 3,092 fatalities in the United States in 2010 caused by distracted drivers – and, the NHTSA estimates another 416,000 people sustained injuries due to distracted driving accidents.

In addition, the NHTSA reports that using a cellphone through a headset, such as a Bluetooth device, is “not substantially safer than hand-held use.”

When someone is injured in a distracted driving accident, a skilled personal injury attorney can provide guidance to ensure just compensation is received.

Source: News Observer, “New law allows hands-free texting while driving in California, sort of,” Mike Rosenberg, July 13, 2012.