“In car now. TTYL.”
That’s a message that drivers in the nation’s most populous state are getting used to this week, as California’s no-text while driving law went into effect Jan. 1.
According to the California department of motor vehicle’s Web site, new rule, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, bans writing, sending, or reading a text-based communication while driving in the Golden State.
As MSNBC reports, the law applies to wireless phones, or other communication devices, used for text-based communication. The ban includes, and is not limited to text messages, instant messages, or e-mail, according to the vehicle department.
The state already requires adult drivers to use hands-free devices for cell phones, and bans 16- and 17-year-olds from using any device to talk or text while driving.
For some, the ban apparently has come too late.
As TMCnet reported, federal authorities recently confirmed the role that text-messaging likely played in the tragic accident in Los Angeles last month that saw a commuter train collide with a Union Pacific freighter, killing 25 people.
The National Transportation Safety Board says that a Metrolink engineer driving the commuter train sent a text message about 22 seconds before the crash. The engineer, Robert Sanchez, was among those who perished Sept. 12 during the Friday rush hour in a northwest Los Angeles suburb.
The dangers of text-messaging among automobile drivers has been a hot topic among IT insiders for years, and particularly the past several months, as the technology becomes increasingly popular among mobile device users.
According to one recent report, mobile phone users are using text messaging as a mainstream communication vehicle, a trend that industry insiders raises safety concerns about using the technology while driving.
About 55 percent of consumers now use text messaging and 42 percent use their mobile phones to text as much or more than they do to make calls, according to the report from Common Knowledge Research Services. The report, “Consumer Text Messaging Habits,” was commissioned by the Vlingo Corporation, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based wireless data services company. Vlingo is gaining traction in the communications market with its flagship offering, a free, Web-based speech recognition service for mobile devices that allows users to send text messages or check e-mail simply by speaking into their phones.
One Harvard Center for Risk Analysis study that shows 2,600 people are killed each year from driver distraction incidents stemming from cell phone use. The statistic prompted one San Francisco-based company that deals in hands-free head sets for office environments today to offer a free set to those who are ticketed for cell phone use while driving.
A handful of states have laws that regulate cell phone use for drivers, while others have laws in place already that include more general bans on distracting activity while operating a motor vehicle.
According to Vlingo, about 23 states are considering legislation to ban driving while texting.
According to the report, 28 percent admit to driving while texting, or “DWT.” Among respondents, 78 percent believe DWT should be illegal, 85 percent of respondents say they would not DWT if it were illegal, 85 percent of teens and young adults (those 13-29) send text messages, and just over 50 percent of those ages 16-29 admit to DWT.
Driving accidents are the nation’s number one killer of teenagers, according to the NTSB.
The full Vlingo report can be downloaded here.
Meanwhile, the NTSB already has said that the brakes on the Metrolink train were not applied before the collision. The federal agency also determined that stop signals at the scene were working properly, said Kitty Higgins, an NTSB member assigned to the investigation, according to reports.
The NTSB said that 46-year-old Sanchez sent a text message at 4:22:01 p.m. on Sept. 12, citing information on his cell phone activity that the safety board subpoenaed from his service provider. The preliminary estimate of the time for the head-on collision is 4:22:23 p.m., the NTSB said, citing Union Pacific train’s onboard recorders.
Sanchez last received a text message at 4:21:03 p.m., the NTSB said.
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Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Michael Dinan