California could ban teens from voice-texting behind the wheel

California could ban teens from voice-texting behind the wheel

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Teens are already banned from using cellphones while behind the wheel. New California legislation would bar those younger than 18 from using voice-operated hands-free texting programs when driving.

Damon Durgin is a 17-year-old driver. He said Wednesday that he doesn't touch his phone when behind the wheel of his car.

"So you pay more attention to the road, so there's less accidents and less chance of accidents, because you're focusing on the road and not your cellphone," said Durgin.

When Eyewitness News told Durgin about a possible bill that would ban teens from using hands-free voice-operated texts, he said he didn't see a problem if he wasn't touching the phone.

"You can just put your phone down and say the text and you don't have to look at your phone, or even text on your phone. You can just focus and say what you got to say," he said.

Officer Robert Rodriguez with the California Highway Patrol said teens are already banned from using cellphones while driving, even with hands-free devices.

The new bill would take that a step further, stopping teens from even using a talk-to-text device.

"If you know that that person is driving, don't send them a text message," Rodriguez said. "The leading cause of death for teenagers are motor vehicle crashes."

Of drivers 15-19 years old involved in deadly crashes, 21 percent of the distracted drivers were on a cellphone.

In 2009, the state saw more than 26,000 crashes that were in-part caused by driver distractions - 116 were killed and more than 17,000 were injured.

"I think most teens that would like to drive, would also like to live a long life,” said Dr. Anastasia Freeborn, who has a teenage son.

"When you're texting, you're looking down, and it's a split second, and you look up, and you've rear ended someone,” said Teresa Johnson, who is also a parent.

Durgin said he understands why driving laws are strict when it comes to teens.

“We're new, we're not experienced, and we just freshly got out of the driving school, and we make mistakes. And we make even more mistakes when we're not paying attention to the road,” he said.

The measure banning teens from talk-to-text devices passed the state Senate in April. It is currently on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk for his signature.