Los Angeles Attorneys at the S & S Legal Group Respond to Proposed Voice-Texting Ban

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California motorists are now legally entitled to text while driving as long as a hands-free device is used. Sending and receiving emails with such a device is also legal as long as the driver is over 18.

Los Angeles Injury Law Firm

Even with hands-free technology, a driver is distracted when they are talking on the phone.

California motorists are now legally entitled to text while driving as long as a hands-free device is used. Sending and receiving emails with such a device is also legal as long as the driver is over 18. The law was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in July of last year and went into effect on the first day of 2013. Prior to this new law, texting or emailing while driving was prohibited. Clearly it is too early to tell if the law has had a positive or negative influence on road safety.

But even with the new law in place, Los Angeles Attorney Sean Salamati of the S & S Legal Group says, "the law seems to send a dangerous message. Sacramento should be discouraging distracted driving, not approving it." This echoes the sentiment of at least one California lawmaker who has proposed a change to the law. Salamati and his partner at S & S Legal, Ramin Soofer, are in solidarity with supporters of a ban on "voice-texting."

NBC news reports that Assemblyman Jim Frazier wants to return to a total ban on emailing and texting while driving. Hands-free-texting, also known as "voice-texting," is just as dangerous as the ordinary variety, Frazier says, because texting creates cognitive distraction. Frazier asserts that some research, notably a study by Virginia Tech's Center for Automotive Safety Research, indicates that both traditional texting and hands-free require glancing away from the road and also make the driver less aware of their immediate surroundings. The National Safety Council (NSC) has also condemned the California law because, they argue, there “is no research or evidence that indicates voice-activated technologies eliminate or even reduce the distraction to the drivers’ mind. Unless such research becomes available, texting laws, such as California’s, should not be weakened by legalizing the use of voice-to-text technologies” ("National Safety Council calls for repeal of amendment to California texting law").

With the risk of car accident already high in California, perhaps Frazier, the NSC, and the attorneys at S & S Legal will find enthusiastic supporters to champion the cause. Ramin and Soofer have been consistent about their opposition to anything that makes distracted driving a greater possibility. Reflecting on his many years as an attorney focused on catastrophic injury cases, Soofer says, "At S & S Legal, we have seen countless injury cases that would have been avoided had a driver simply been paying more attention. So often the cell phone is involved in distracted driving collisions. The phone is not to blame, of course, the driver is. But nothing in the law should make distracted driving any easier."

Ramin and Soofer also contend that victims will be less likely to get maximum compensation for their injuries if hands-free texting remains legal. Pursuing punitive damages may be more difficult under the current law. "Punitive damages against someone who has caused a catastrophe may be the only way to send a message: driving safely should always be the priority. If texting contributes to a car accident, the driver should be held accountable. If the driver was 'legally' distracted while voice-texting, punitive damages may be more challenging to pursue because the driver may not have violated the law, " worries Ramin.

Assembly Bill 313 may be heard in committee on March 15 in Sacramento. For the attorneys of the S & S Legal Group, this new law should be adopted as soon as possible. A ban on voice-texting and, perhaps, a complete ban on cell phone use by drivers in a moving vehicle, may reduce injuries and fatalities on California freeways and roads. "Even with hands-free technology, a driver is distracted when they are talking on the phone," Ramin says. "Anything the legislature can do to improve road safety should be done. Relaxing the laws in the first place may not have been a wise decision."

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