CA bill bans young people from talking on phones while driving

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In an effort to stop distracted driving, a California lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban young people from talking on the phone while driving — even if they’re using a hands-free device.

Assembly Bill 276, by Assemblywoman Dianne Dixon, R-Newport Beach, would ban drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 from using hands-free devices to talk on the phone. That would be an offence. California law already prohibits drivers under 18 from doing so.

In an interview with The Bee, Dixon said the law came about because she noticed a lot of people on their mobile devices while driving and did some research.

“And what jumped out at me is the under-21 age group, that’s where the crashes happen,” Dixon said.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,142 people died in distraction-related crashes in 2020, including 186 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 — 6% of all distraction-related deaths. The same survey found that 7% of all teen fatal car crashes in 2020 involved distracted driving.

“I just want to raise this issue and bring attention to it,” Dixon said.

Asked how the police would enforce such a ban, Dixon said it would be a secondary offence; the police must first stop someone for the underlying offense before they can invoke this prohibition.

Dixon said the amount of the citation has not yet been determined.

The bill was introduced this week but has not yet been assigned to a committee for a hearing.

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Andrew Schiller covers California’s unique political climate for The Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from interior Alaska to the oil patches of North Dakota and the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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