BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                    AB 1785


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          CONCURRENCE IN SENATE AMENDMENTS


          AB  
          1785 (Quirk)


          As Amended  August 3, 2016


          Majority vote


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          |ASSEMBLY:  |48-22 |(May 31, 2016) |SENATE: |23-13 |(August 17,      |
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          Original Committee Reference:  TRANS.


          SUMMARY:  Repeals and recasts the prohibition on the use of an  
          electronic wireless communications device while driving.


          The Senate amendments: 


          1)Provide that a handheld wireless telephone or electronic  
            wireless communications device may also be operated while the  
            driver is operating a motor vehicle if the device is mounted  
            on or affixed to the vehicle's dashboard or center console in  
            a manner that does not hinder the driver's view of the road. 


          2)Make other minor, technical changes.


          EXISTING LAW:  








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          1)Prohibits a person from driving a motor vehicle while using an  
            electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or  
            read a text-based communication, unless the electronic  
            wireless communications device is specifically designed and  
            configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation  
            and is used in that manner.
          2)Provides that a person shall not be deemed to be writing,  
            reading, or sending a text-based communication if the person  
            reads, selects, or enters a telephone number or name in an  
            electronic wireless communications device for the purpose of  
            making or receiving a telephone call or if a person otherwise  
            activates or deactivates a feature or function on an  
            electronic wireless communications device.


          AS PASSED BY THE ASSEMBLY, this bill:


          1)Repealed the prohibition on driving a motor vehicle while  
            using an electronic wireless communications device to write,  
            send, or read a text-based communication, unless the  
            electronic wireless communications device is specifically  
            designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free  
            operation and is used in that manner.  


          2)Instead, prohibited a person from driving a motor vehicle  
            while operating a wireless telephone or electronic wireless  
            communications device unless the device is specifically  
            designed for and used in a voice-operated and hands-free  
            manner.


          3)Provided that this prohibition does not apply to  
            factory-installed electronic wireless communications devices  
            located in a vehicle's dashboard, as specified or to a  
            wireless telephone or device mounted on a vehicle's  
            windshield, as specified.










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          FISCAL EFFECT:  According to the Senate Appropriations  
          Committee, pursuant to Senate Rule 28.8, negligible state costs.


          COMMENTS:  Since 2006, California has prohibited driving a motor  
          vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless the device is  
          configured to allow for hands-free listening and talking.  In  
          2008, this ban expanded to prohibit a person from writing,  
          sending or reading text-based communications while driving [SB  
          28 (Simitian), Chapter 270, Statutes of 2008].  In 2013, the  
          Legislature again expanded this ban to prohibit anyone younger  
          than 18 years of age from operating a wireless communications  
          device while driving, regardless of the device's hands-free  
          capability [SB 194 (Galgiani), Chapter 754, Statutes of 2013].


          Despite the steady expansion of legislative prohibitions on the  
          use of wireless telephones and electronic wireless  
          communications devices while driving, and the clear dangers of  
          distracted driving, in 2014, the California Court of Appeals for  
          the 5th District ruled that the existing ban only prohibits a  
          driver from holding a wireless telephone while conversing on it.  
           In making its ruling, the court found that the legislative  
          intent in enacting those prohibitions was merely focused on  
          prohibiting a wireless telephone only while carrying on a  
          conversation, not while using it for any other purpose.  For  
          that reason, law enforcement agencies find it difficult, if not  
          practicably impossible to enforce the prohibition, as the scope  
          of a mobile device's functions and its contributions to  
          distracted driving go far beyond simply making and receiving  
          telephone calls.


          The current statutory ban on using a wireless telephone and  
          writing, sending, or reading a text-based communication with an  
          electronic wireless communications device has been characterized  
          as being too narrow and not contemplating the full scope of  
          activities that can be carried out on a wireless telephone or  
          electronic wireless communications device.  Furthermore, the  
          distinction between a wireless telephone and an electronic  
          wireless communications device has grown increasingly blurred,  
          as a mobile device that an everyday Californian might  








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          colloquially refer to as a "cell phone" indeed resembles more of  
          a pocket-sized personal computer with telephone capabilities.   
          While a wireless telephone of 2006 might have the ability to  
          make and receive phone calls, send text messages, and offer  
          limited internet access, a smartphone of 2016 has vastly greater  
          capabilities, ranging from those legacy functions to global  
          positioning, video streaming, and photography.  The existing  
          statutory bans may have been sufficient to capture the full  
          range of capabilities of wireless telephones at the time, but  
          the language of the bans has been found to be insufficient to  
          capture the capabilities of today's devices.


          As the number of mobile devices and their range of capabilities  
          has grown, so too has their impact on driver safety on  
          California roads.  The California Department of Motor Vehicles  
          reported over 426,000 handheld cell phone and texting  
          convictions from jurisdictions statewide in 2013.  In 2015,  
          there were 12 fatal collisions involving handheld cellphone use  
          as an inattention factor, over 500 injury collisions, and nearly  
          700 property damage collisions.  That same year, the California  
          Highway Patrol alone issued over 13,000 citations for violating  
          the ban on writing, sending, or reading text-based  
          communications while driving, and 78,000 citations for using a  
          wireless telephone while driving.


          The author argues that the inconsistency of judicial  
          interpretation makes the law difficult to uphold by law  
          enforcement and difficult to follow to average citizens.  By  
          including functions of wireless telephones and electronic  
          wireless communications devices beyond just telephone calls,  
          under the prohibition on their use while driving, the author  
          intends to give law enforcement additional tools to promote  
          driver safety.


          Please see the policy committee analysis for full discussion of  
          this bill.


          Analysis Prepared by:                                             








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                          Justin Behrens / TRANS. / (916) 319-2093  FN:  
          0003835