At last, a bill that bans teenagers from using cell phones while driving. This was a long time coming. According to a bill signed off by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last week, California’s youngest drivers – those under 18 — can’t chat, can’t text-message, use laptops, pagers, walkie-talkies, handheld computers or even use a hands-free device while on the road, a news report by the Associated Press stated. This new law, which in my opinion should be enforced on adult drivers as well, will take effect July 1, 2008 – the same day another law requiring adult drivers to use hands-free goes into effect.
The new law for drivers ages 16 and 17 was prompted by the intense popularity of text messaging in these age groups, the AP report said. The governor, while announcing his support for SB 33, said the purpose of the legislation is to “eliminate any extra distractions so they can focus on paying attention to the road and being good drivers.” Violators will be fined $20 for the first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses, the article stated. The only exception is for someone who is making an emergency call.
There were three main studies that were taken into consideration for this bill. One was statistics from the California Highway Patrol, which showed cell phone use can increase your risk of having an accident by 400 percent. Another study from Ford Motor Co. showed teens are four times more likely to be distracted than adults by cell phone use. Also a 2001 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study found that 16-year-old drivers have a crash rate three times higher than that of 17-year-olds, five times greater than 18 year-olds and almost 10 times greater than drivers between the ages 30 and 59.
What these statistics tell us is not only that these teenagers are putting themselves in danger, but they’re also putting others on the road in danger. We’ve seen a tremendous increase in auto accidents caused by distracted drivers in recent years. The effects of these distractions have been catastrophic, resulting in major injuries and loss of life.
It is our job as adults to teach our youth to be responsible citizens and that we are accountable for our actions. As I said, I wish the same law was enforced on adults because these days we see that grown-ups are as inclined as their younger counterparts to chat, text or use computers while driving. This could be equally dangerous or even more dangerous in adults because adults tend to be more confident with their driving and are prone to take more risks just because of that.
To read a full text of SB 33, visit www.sen.ca.gov.
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