back to article California clamps down on in-car mobile use

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has banned the use of mobile phones while driving, but only for those under the age of 21. The rest of the population is free to chat while cruising down the freeway, eating ice cream out of a bucket and reading Sports Illustrated. The 60-year-old ex-Terminator said in a statement …


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  1. Brendan Weir

    Why are we paying Road Tax?

    If the government is collecting a 10 person per day road toll, why hasn't Vehicle Excise Duty been scrapped?

    Any idea how the 10 people are selected?

  2. Jason Scrutton

    We are better drivers!

    Well, from my unscientific observations I think so anyway, as does every Brit I know that has emigrated to the other side of the pond!

  3. Jason Harvey


    or medication... I'd be more concerned about people on anti-depressants and cold remedies (among other drugs that are typically mentioned in regards to California) than I would some kid talking on a cell phone. Now reading/texting while driving _should_ be a common sense no-no, but we all know where common sense has gone in recent years.

  4. Nexox Enigma

    Not going to have an effect.

    The problem is that this is one of those unenforceable laws. If a cop sees a teenager on the phone, they cannot pull them over, otherwise the cop is guilty of profiling of some sort. The only outcome is that if a 16-20 year old gets in an accident while proveably using a mobile device, they'll probably get a bit more punishment / raised insurance premiums. I'm pretty sure that if a cop saw a 12 year old driving without breaking any laws (other than the age thing) they wouldn't be able to pull the kid over, because my state is so damned concerned with avoiding age/race/gender/ape profiling. And there are enough teenagers with excessively rich parents that the cops face a serious threat to legal action in most areas of the state.

    And honestly, the adults are barely better than the teenagers on the roads here. They've just gotten better at ignoring all of the cars around them and living - they still can't actually drive well.

  5. David Gosnell

    Is this the same Arnold Schwarzenegger ...

    ... who got away with crashing his motorbike when he didn't even have a licence?

    Not directly relevant to the specifics, but hardly exemplary re road safety and law.

  6. Tim

    Reaction times

    Reaction times while driving reduce with experience. The the more people drive the more they learn to look for the signs, so an experienced driver aged 40 will have a greatly reduced reaction time to that of a 18 yr old just passed their test. Obviously when they get to a certain age their reaction times slow enough to counteract this. This explains the inability to match speed limits, turn of indicators after junctions or notice when it's safe for them to pull out.

  7. Chris

    Useless metric

    "US drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 reportedly have four times as many fatal accidents as those between 25 and 69."

    Wow, can we find a more meaningless metric? That statement, alone, says absolutely nothing. I'm not blaming the author here, because this is the same line said by anyone bent on taking driving privileges away from teens. But here are some points to think about:

    1) Why is the "more dangerous" metric only four years (16-19), but the "less dangerous" metric 45 years (25-69)? If you want to make it more fair and accurate, list separate metrics for EACH four-year period (16-19, 20-24, 25-29, etc). Since people aged 65-69 drive far less than those aged 25-29, they will lower the incident rate for the overall group.

    2) Has anyone considered the amount of driving involved (time or mileage)? Someone aged 16-19 will likely be driving a lot more than someone aged 56-59 or 66-69. As such, there will obviously be a higher risk and a higher incident rate.

    3) Has any data been collected or reported on those 16-19 year olds with a higher incident rate to break it down by what percentage took a driver education course and what percentage did not?

    Don't get me wrong. I'm all for restricting people from talking on the phone while they drive. Most of them are a menace to society and don't pay attention to anything around them. But let's not pretend that it's only teens who are dangerous.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Improving tests would be a better idea

    I moved out to California in February. When I got here I found I had to take the California licence as they do not recognise either the UK or international licences as valid.

    As I only ride a motorbike I opted to only take that part of the test but I was shocked to find out how it is done here. Initially I had to pass a simple written (multi-guess) theory exam - actually two of them, one for 'general' driving theory (which is the one car drivers take and has such wonderful questions as "at what weight does a child not have to wear a child seatbelt even if under the age of 12") and then a specific motorbike theory exam.

    After passing that theory exam I was fully entitled to ride around on any motorbike I chose to, provided I did not ride on the freeway or at night. That's right, after a *theory* exam, someone could go throw their leg-over a 1000cc sportsbike and ride around quite legally.

    To get the full licence, all I needed to do was show up at a test center and ride my bike around a circle two times. That was it. Quite how that shows you are capable to ride on the freeway and at night is beyond me - to date I have never needed to ride the bike in a tight circle on the freeway.

  9. G R Goslin


    Ummm, As far as I was aware, you could only have one fatal accident.

  10. Brad Hutchings

    Dear Austria

    You can have Arnold Schwarzenegger back. And take the Kennedys with him. For those Calleeforneeuh parents looking for an easy way to keep your kids talking on their cell phones without getting their name on the board from Kindergarten Cop, check out the Alpine CDA-9885 and add the iPod Full Speed cable and Bluetooth phone adaptor. They can get their calls through the dash, listen through the speakers, and talk through a discrete mic mounted on the sun visor. has the goods.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Nexox : What a bunch of crap

    "If a cop sees a teenager on the phone, they cannot pull them over, otherwise the cop is guilty of profiling of some sort"

    This is complete bullshit. If a cop catches you red-handed committing a crime, it's not profiling, it's catching you red-handed. Profiling means pulling up people who aren't doing anything on the grounds that you think they might be because of some characteristic such as age or race. It's about placing people under suspicion *before* you have any prima facie evidence. Seeing them actually talking on the phone is all the probable cause that any cop would need.

    You need to go get a dictionary, quick, before you accidentally talk any more garbage. You're clearly so determined to have a moan about some chip on your shoulder that you aren't bothered if your imaginary complaint actually makes the slightest bit of sense or is the least bit relevant to the situation we're discussing. Well, congratulations you for managing to have an opinion, shame you couldn't go the extra mile to make it relate to the real world at all, you nearly did sooo well there.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Well, congratulations you for managing to have an opinion, shame you couldn't go the extra mile to make it relate to the real world at all, you nearly did sooo well there"

    Or: The Anonymous in Pursuit of the Pseudonymous

  13. J

    freaking title

    "free to chat while cruising down the freeway, eating ice cream out of a bucket and reading Sports Illustrated"

    You forgot "throw their unwanted junk mail out of the window" -- I've seen it happen here in Virginia more than once. People driving, reading the mail, and getting rid of the pieces they didn't want. A beauty.

    I don't know how is the driving in the UK, but compared to Brazilian (São Paulo) standards, US (VA) driving is pretty scarily bad.

    @Useless metric Chris

    Yeah, but the article didn't say it was a RATE, did it? :O)

    Technically speaking, I believe "four times as many" could refer to absolute numbers too, eh? (although it's hard to believe that would be the case here, but don't spoil my fun!)

  14. dan

    of course it would come from California...

    It is not about 'reaction time', but about how cautious drivers become with experience... a driver of 10 years experience may still send e-mails with his/her blackberry while driving, but he/she is more likely to glance at the road frequently while doing so, because he/she is more aware of how quickly the traffic conditions can change at 60mph.

    I like the age limit of 21... hand someone bottle of vodka and a new iPhone, and see how quick they learn to use moderation when driving!

  15. Stuart Gray

    @ Chris

    "anyone bent on taking driving privileges away from teens"

    Two comments here: as you say, they are PRIVILEGES, not rights. Infringe, and lose your licence. For some time. Then take a decent test to get it back. And secondly, Teens have no business driving two tons of metal at high speed.

    In my ideal world, everyone should start on a motorbike (which drives home just how vulnerable one is on two wheels) before moving to a car at no less than 21 years (exemptions given to people who marry and have children before then). A solid test (including skid pan driving), repeated every five years. And for God's sake America, let the teens start drinking beer/wine at 16 (like we do on the civilised European mainland - not the UK). Then by the time they are 21 and can drive, they know what drinking means, instead of the arse about face way you have it now, you know, where you let teenagers get sloppy about driving and THEN get ratfaced at the age of 21.

  16. Eduard Coli

    Cheezy way to get your name in the papers

    Arnie did what allot of politicians looking for a quickie in the news do to groups that don't seem to block vote. Useless and unfair laws, it is really age discrimination.


  17. David

    Should Be Locked up

    People who insist on trying to do anything other than actually driving, whilst at the wheel of a potential killing machine should be locked up and the key thrown away. I drive for a living in the UK and, despite the law banning the use of mobile phones whilst driving, I see, day after day, total idiots who appear to be under the delusion that they can do umpteen things at once. The worst example I`ve seen of late was a lady driving behind me in heavy traffic, not wearing a seat belt, dividing her time between a very animated conversation on her phone and smoking a cigarette - oh and I could also distinctly see the rear female passenger, sitting plum in the middle of the rear seat, a toddler on her lap, no seat belt on either, also being very animated and quite obviously distracting the driver - as if she hadn`t got enough on her mind already! She followed me through the middle of a town, her speed, position on the road and distance behind me wavering up and down like the proverbial yo-yo and she finally decided that maybe she should wake up and actually concentrate on her driving when she very nearly ran into the back of me whilst I was turning right. I could hardly contain my anger, feeling like getting out and confiscating her ignition key or throwing it as far away as possible! People like that have no right to be on the road, in my opinion and should have the full force of the law thrust upon them. As for truck drivers who also use hand-held phones, my thoughts are unprintable, having been nearly taken out by one barrelling straight on to a roundabout that I was already negotiating. There he was, on the phone, eyes looking in my direction, but obviously not seeing. He genuinely seemed to wonder why I got more than a little upset. I try and rise above road rage, but I have to admit that "little" incident exceeded my breaking point. Scum!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This shouldn't have an age limit

    I believe I have been almost hit by more 35-45 year old "business people" conducting presumably important business while driving than teens on the phone.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Clunk, Click Every Trip

    I heard somewhere that this California law will ban everyone from using hand held phones (and other gadgets) and under 18-year-olds from even making hands free calls. Are the cops going to be looking out for young kids' lips moving as they drive along I wonder?

    Still, I'm in favour of all these bans. If phone using idiots hurt/kill themselves I really couldn't care less. It's being on the receiving end of one of their accidents that I worry about.

  20. Charles Manning

    Different levels of distraction

    Is talking really that distracting? If so, how is using a phone any different from using CB radio or yelling at the kids in the back?

    In my own (limited) experiments and observations, the actual yackering seems far less distracting than making a call (looking at the screen and selecting a number). Still, that is not any more distracting than finding and loading a CD and flicking through the tracks.

    Texting while driving... now there's a bad thing. Probably a huge contributor to teenage road deaths here in NZ.

    So why ban it in the teenagers? Well firstly they're the real text-heads. They also do have less road-savvy. When was the last time you saw a 40 year old cutting through the traffic while texting?

  21. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Wizzo Tech Solution

    Have a narrow beam jamming device aimed at the drivers seat and activated by the ignition key.

  22. Kevin

    Distraction @Charles Manning

    Yes, talking is that distracting. There are numerous studies that show that talking on a phone is far more distracting than talking to somebody in the car. Basically it comes down to you shifting your concentration elsewhere. You shift your concentration (I know it happens to me, it's almost like daydreaming) to the conversation that is happening remotely. You don't do that when the person it right there.

    The effect is the same whether you're using handsfree or not but the physical impediment of holding the phone makes that mode more dangerous. But not by much, I read.

    Here in Australia, nobody is allowed to use a phone in their hands while in control of a motor vehicle. NB in control of a motor vehicle basically means being in the driver's seat with the engine running. Even when parked at the side of the road!!! Handsfree is still legal here. As is smoking, putting on make-up, eating breakfast, etc (except to the extent that the police have the option of using the "careless driving" or "dangerous driving" catch-alls if you happen to be putting on your make-up while eating porridge with the dog on your lap (ok, I've seen that without the make-up bit).

    I suspect the same would apply to CB radio if you're having a conversation. Listening to the radio is not a problem because it's completely passive. Although sometimes, if I'm really interested in a talk-back discussion, I find myself getting too "involved" in the discussion and concentrates wanes.


  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    driving while impared

    i drive while talking on the mobile, smoking a cigar, laptop with broadband to my side monitoring systems, on cruise control, steering with my knee.

    but, that's in iowa...

  24. Paul C. Hartley

    @G R Goslin Re: Fatal

    You can have as many fatal road accidents as you like just as long as the fatal injuries dont hapen to you.

  25. Ron Eve

    In case you think all the idiots live in California...

    ... just 2 days ago I witnessed a motorcycle courier on a 250cc Honda, riding up Kings Road, Chelsea holding a phone to his ear... Any riders among you will appreciate the dexterity of this manoeuvre.

    Oh and I'm a rider of some 40 years and I've rarely seen anything quite so insane.

  26. Conor Wynne

    texting while driving = insanity

    Just the other day I had to swerve onto the hard shoulder because some idiot (in his 30's) was texting while driving, he was on the wrong side of the road and never even knew it.

    How he made it around the bend is amazing, and the ONLY reason we didn't crash was because I ride a motorcycle, if I was in the car we would have had a head on collission -- even if I stopped!

    He simply didn't even know it had happened -- didn't even lift his head when I beeped like mad!

    All texters / callers should get penno points.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Another reason that a phone conversation is more distracting than that with a passenger is that the person on the other end of the phone cannot see when you need to concentrate and SFTU for a minute.

    Some dumb woman nearly ran up my arse today because she was trying to file her nails and drive at the same time - specific rules for specific distractions are pointless - just get more cops on the road actually busting people for the existing crimes of 'driving without due care and attention' and 'dangerous driving' - the things that cameras can't catch.

  28. Anteaus


    The problem with young drivers isn't so much inexperience but peer-pressure and 'media role models' -the social pressures to drive fast and dangerously are what lead to the prangs.

    Guess who set those role-models? Well, there's Mad Max, and... Oh, that other one. you know...

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