New law aims to curb distracted teenage drivers

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a new law Thursday that beginning in July 2008 will make it illegal for 16- and 17-year-olds to drive while talking on their cell phone or text messaging.

The governor signred the law at Sequoia High School in Redwood City alongside state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, the author of the bill.

Schwarzenegger said the law is necessary because statistics show a link between distractions and accidents among teenage drivers.

"The simple fact is that teen drivers are more easily distracted," Schwarzenegger said. "The majority of accidents with teen drivers is because they're distracted."

Simitian echoed Schwarzenegger saying that the two years between ages 16 and 18 are especially dangerous driving years.

"The crash rates for 16-year-olds are five times greater than they are for their 18-year-old friends," Simitian said.

Schwarzenegger has two teenage daughters and both of them have been warned by their governor father that they will lose both their cell phone and driving privileges even now if they are ever caught on the phone or text messaging while driving.

"Both of them will be gone. The car will be gone for a long time and the phone will also be gone for a long time," Schwarzenegger said.

Sequoia High School student body president Ally Colin, a 17-year-old senior, said she has been guilty of talking on her cell phone while driving in the past.

"Real quick, but now I won't," Colin said.

The law takes effect on July 1, 2008, the same time as another new law written by Simitian and previously signed by Schwarzenegger that makes it illegal for adults to talk on a cell phone while driving unless they use a "hands-free" device.

"Starting in July if you're 18 or over it's hands free but if you're under 18, hands off. That'll be the law," Simitian said.

— Bay City News Service


Like this comment
Posted by Simitian is right on this one
a resident of University South
on Sep 13, 2007 at 9:25 pm


Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2007 at 1:28 pm

Well said, Arnold. Teen drivers are very easily distracted and not just by phones. All teens should listen to what Arnold said about giving his daughters cars and phones and if they use both at the same time, they will lose both.

Like this comment
Posted by andi w.
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 18, 2007 at 12:46 pm

I think it's unfair to limit this law to 16/17 year olds. I've seen plenty of people - whether they are young or old, black or white, big or small, male or female - who are, just like teenagers, safety hazards on the road while speaking on cell phones/text messaging as well. It is true that 16/17 year olds are more unexperienced at driving, but phones are distracting no matter how experienced of a driver you are.

The television show on the Discovery Channel, Mythbusters, dedicated an episode to comparing the effects of driving while intoxicated and driving while on the phone - they were both EQUALLY hazardous!

If driving drunk is illegal, driving on the phone should also be as well - they BOTH take lives!

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