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California Bans Front-Seat Computer Use 804

Posted by timothy
from the law-is-an-ass dept.
An anonymous reader submits "As of January 1, 2004 the State of California has banned the use of notebook computers used anywhere in the front seat (PDF) of a moving vehicle. Previously, the ban applied just to TV sets. Even if your car-pooling front seat passenger is just doing some programming, you can be charged with a crime (AB 301). Thanks go to CA Assemblymember Sarah Reyes for this well meaning but overly broad piece of legislation." The text is mercifully short, but still contains some tricky language; probably the meaning of "installed" at the very least needs to be clarified. Would a laptop affixed to a installed bracket count? Considering the complexity of modern automotive navigation/control systems (now sneaking into budget vehicles, too), it seems like a very fine distinction. The law would seem to ban handheld computers being used as navigation aids, too, or GPS devices with games, and very soon, nearly all cell phones.
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California Bans Front-Seat Computer Use

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  • Many times (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrpuffypants (444598) * <mrpuffypants@gma3.14159il.com minus pi> on Friday January 02, 2004 @09:57AM (#7859422)
    Many times I've been going somewhere and either needed to get directions for the drive or a phone number and I pulled my PowerBook up to the front seat to get the info. I tried to at least stop somewhere first though...
    • In Britain you are not allowed to be controlling a vehicle while using your hand with a phone. I don't know what the law is wrt computers. This seems a lot more sensible and workable than banning cell phones/computers from the front seat(s); as long as your hands and eyes are free to drive, you can pretty much do what you want.
      • Re:Many times (Score:5, Informative)

        by gvc (167165) on Friday January 02, 2004 @12:17PM (#7860528)
        It is intuitively appealing to believe that the problem with mobile phones is the use of your hands. It isn't. A number of studies have shown that there is no difference in accident rates between users of hand-held and hands-free phones.

        Here's one reference [accidentre...uction.com]

        A second point is that the risk of using a cell phone, perhaps a factor of 4, is less than other risks we consider acceptable, like driving at night, or driving in bad weather, or driving unecessary distances.

        For that matter, it may be that pulling over to use a phone is more risky than using it while driving. First, there is the risk of the act itself and of parking at the side of the road. Second, the same studies noted above show that risk persists for 10-15 minutes after the phone conversation is terminated. So the driver pulling back into traffic or otherwise manoevering in an unfamiliar situation may be at extreme risk.
        • Re:Many times (Score:4, Informative)

          by the_duke_of_hazzard (603473) on Friday January 02, 2004 @12:53PM (#7860808)
          Interesting. I've long thought "pulling over" might be more dangerous than continuing. This stdy, however, examines responses to road signs, not ability to respond to crisis situations. Though I can see that failure in the former may lead to the latter. The problem with banning all mobile phone conversations is that it is unenforceable (link below), and not sufficiently different to normal conversation, at least in the popular mind, to be accepted as fair.

          A friend of mine worked for a British governmental institution that examined road safety. They found that mild cannabis improved the safety of drivers (less fast driving, more awareness etc).

          Relevant articles: BBC1 [bbc.co.uk] BBC2 [bbc.co.uk]

        • Re:Many times (Score:3, Interesting)

          by epsilon_alpha (733136)
          We all know that focusing on something else, whether it be cell phone, computer, or radio, takes attention from the primary task; driving the car. Cell phones require double duty distraction (so far as no hands-free systems go); operating the phone and communicating through it.

          A second point is that the risk of using a cell phone, perhaps a factor of 4, is less than other risks we consider acceptable, like driving at night, or driving in bad weather, or driving unecessary distances.

          Back to what I said
      • Re:Many times (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ackthpt (218170) on Friday January 02, 2004 @12:30PM (#7860616) Homepage Journal
        In Britain you are not allowed to be controlling a vehicle while using your hand with a phone. I don't know what the law is wrt computers. This seems a lot more sensible and workable than banning cell phones/computers from the front seat(s); as long as your hands and eyes are free to drive, you can pretty much do what you want.

        Last January 1 (2003) A state law went into effect banning the talking on cell phones while driving. Consider that I can wait at a light and see every other driver crossing the intersection blathering away while one-handed-driving, I don't think this is going to be any more enforced.

        In the USA you drive on the right hand side. Drivers going slow are to remain to the right lanes, leaving the left for passing. Yet on multilane freeways I frequently observe cars crawling along, well under the speed limit, while the driver gesticulates (why do people even do this while on cell phones?) and ignores all the traffic having to pass on the right because they can't be bothered with merging traffic while they concentrate on their phone call.

        Just one day of the police rigidly enforcing the ban on cell phones while driving would be a good thing to get the message across, too bad they don't. I see patrol cars pass drivers chatting away. There's no enforcement

        • Re:Many times (Score:3, Informative)

          by homer_ca (144738)
          "Yet on multilane freeways I frequently observe cars crawling along, well under the speed limit"

          That's a different problem. The laws for slower traffic keep right are rarely enforced. Most drivers generally follow that rule, but all it takes is one slow driver in the left lane on a crowded freeway to back up traffic for a 1/4 mile behind him. Some of them are just oblivious to their surroundings, but some actually do it deliberately as their way of enforcing the speed limit. Never mind that in most states,
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I usually start long compiles and then leave the laptop running on the way home, compiling.

    Now, I guess I'll just put it in the back seat.
  • by unclefungus (663751) <crazypete@@@crazypete...net> on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:01AM (#7859452) Homepage Journal
    I almost wrecked into a guy with an LCD screen mounted in his passenger seat. some things are not meant to do while driving. If you "think" you can do it while you drive, then you should pull the car over.
    • by fishbowl (7759) on Friday January 02, 2004 @11:32AM (#7860161)
      In 1998, I saw a guy in the carpool lane, in a Ford pickup truck, with a small TV sitting on the dashboard between the steering wheel and the windshield. One person in the truck. In the carpool lane. Watching TV while driving in traffic. And it wasn't even a "car tv", it was
      just a portable.

      Scared the hell out of me, although it was not the stupidest thing I'd seen on that road (I635, Dallas).
    • by BoomerSooner (308737) on Friday January 02, 2004 @12:35PM (#7860652) Homepage Journal
      Lol, every police car I've seen has one for the driver. ABOVE THE LAW!!!! Of course if the law says it only is when the car is moving then that's different.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:01AM (#7859453)
    In one respect I'd sad that such a law has to be passed... What kind of idiot would use his laptop while driving? but then what kind of idiot reads a bok while driving, watches TV while driving, puts on MAKEUP WHILE DRIVING????

    we all must remember.... over 50% of the population has an IQ below 100. so I guess such laws need to protect the rest of us from the complete morons that are just a inch away from being drooling idiots. now we have to deal with the retards that drive BMW's 3 inches form the rear bumber. why is it that the more you spend on your car the smaller your brain get's behind the wheel?
    • What kind of idiot would use his laptop while driving?

      dunno, cops, emt's, yuppie scum. . .

      but then what kind of idiot reads a bok while driving, watches TV while driving, puts on MAKEUP WHILE DRIVING????

      everybody freaking else. /no, not bitter at all.
  • heh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pb (1020) on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:01AM (#7859455)
    Although some of this does sound overbroad, at least having less drivers using cellphones (especially while driving) is not necessarily such a bad thing, IMO.

    Actually, they should just enact a law that states that while driving a car, your attention should be focused on (duh!) *driving the car*, and if you weren't, and you get in an accident, then you should be held responsible for your negligence.
    • Re:heh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by garcia (6573) * on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:04AM (#7859468) Homepage
      pretty difficult to prove that you were not paying attention... First thing most people do after an accident is get on their cell phone to their insurance companies or to 911.
      • Re:heh. (Score:3, Funny)

        by grazzy (56382)
        If they can monitor that, they'll probably be able to monitor where they called aswell. Do you call 911 from your car for fun alot?
    • Re:heh. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lone_marauder (642787)
      Actually, they should just enact a law that states that while driving a car, your attention should be focused on (duh!) *driving the car*

      I'll make your neurosurgeon aware of that when the attending tries to call his cell for advice re: the catscan of your shattered neck.
    • Re:heh. (Score:3, Funny)

      by nettdata (88196)
      Actually, they should just enact a law that states that while driving a car, your attention should be focused on (duh!) *driving the car*

      EXACTLY.

      I can't tell you how many times I've seen near misses because some woman was doing her makeup on the way to work while driving, or some guy was fishing fries out of the McD's bag while pulling into traffic.

      <MarvinTheMartian>And it makes me angry! So very angry!</>
    • Re:heh. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TheSync (5291) on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:31AM (#7859657) Journal
      I find myself much more relaxed and less distracted with a cellphone in the car.

      That way, if I get in a traffic backup, I can call someone and tell them I'll be late.

      Otherwise, I'd be going nuts worrying about people wondering where I was. This is distracting.

      Just a data point.
  • So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cnelzie (451984) on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:02AM (#7859459) Homepage
    Really, what's the huge deal? The driver's job is to keep the vehicle on the road and going from point A to point B as safely as possible.

    I have seen some real morons driving around the state I live in, fiddling with their cell phone, playing with the radio and many other things. I have also witnessed a number of accidents because some nut was to busy doing everything else instead of driving their car.

    I say kudos to legislation that will force drivers to drive, instead of fiddling with all of their electronic gadgets. I am also a little guilty of that myself, I have a cell phone and I really should be using one of those hands free devices and I do intend on getting one.
    • Ummm...if I am not paying attention and get in an accident, jerking off, playing with my cell phone, stairing at the blonde next to me, I cause the accident, I get the ticket. The law already covers this inherently. THe driver that causes the accident gets a ticket. Why is this law even needed?
      • by grahamtriggs (572707) on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:31AM (#7859658)
        Obviously because you want to stop accidents from occurring, rather than just punish people after the event.

        It makes sense that drivers are banned from doing things that affect their ability to drive the car. But does that really need all these explicit laws about phones, laptops, etc.? There is a concept of 'dangerous driving' / 'driving without due care and attention'. Surely that by definition covers using phones, etc. I guess that the law is really only passed to bring attention to the fact that you can't do it, whereas previously it may have been considered that you could - that and to clarify the penalties imposed.

        But the blanket 'front seat' ban is bizarre. How is a front seat passenger using a laptop causing more of a distraction than - say - having a conversation with the driver?
        • Because different judges/juries/lawyers/etc have different views regarding what is distracting and what isn't.

          Some judges would pull your license for picking your nose while driving. Others share the idiocy of some of the posters here and would dismiss a reckless driving case against a driver reading the paper and playing with a laptop while driving.

          Explicitly stating that using a phone or computer is distracting behavior makes enforcement possible and consistent.

          Once upon a time, there was no standard
      • by FreeUser (11483) on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:37AM (#7859706)
        The law already covers this inherently. THe driver that causes the accident gets a ticket. Why is this law even needed?

        Because they would like to empower the police to put a stop to dangerous behavior before it causes an accident. The prior law you cite only accounted for assigning blame after an accident had already occurred...it did little if anything to prevent accidents ahead of time, or to allow the police to do so if they observed someone behaving dangerously (like half the cell phone users on the road).

        Now, this particular form of negligent driving (fiddling with a laptop while driving) is punishable, without the need for twisted metal and carnage first. I too agree that it is overly broad: a passenger navigating should be able to use GPSdrive (more effecient and really no different than using a map), and anyone should be able to use a cell phone provided they are using a handsfree set with voice-tagged numbers. However, fiddling with the thing and looking up names/numbers on the phone while driving is rightly prohibited.

        The real issue is that the law hasn't looked at the technology close enough, or drawn the line finely enough, between legitimate, enabling technology (e.g. getting directions on a handsfree phone while driving, or having a navigating passenger use a computer to avoid getting lost) and stupid, moronic, negligent use of technology (browsing the web while driving, watching tv whilee driving, manually tuning the radio while driving, fiddling with one's cell phone while driving, or driving one handed while holding the cell phone up to one's ear). One can reasonably expect future revisions of the law to refine this, particularly as virtually every automobile gets sophisticated computer equipment and "glass cockpit" style displays installed in future models.
        • I too agree that it is overly broad: a passenger navigating should be able to use GPSdrive (more effecient and really no different than using a map), and anyone should be able to use a cell phone provided they are using a handsfree set with voice-tagged numbers.

          The real issue is that the law hasn't looked at the technology close enough, or drawn the line finely enough, between legitimate, enabling technology (e.g. getting directions on a handsfree phone while driving, or having a navigating passenger us

    • Re:So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by EasyTarget (43516) on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:27AM (#7859626) Journal
      String them up I say.. I got sideswiped off my bike last week in Amsterdam by some total dork watching hardcore rap video's in his little toy BMW, via a front mount DVD player. THere are a lot of total twats doing that in this town.
      Mostly my pride injured but I was not amused.

      Watching anything other than the road is just an idiotic thing to do. Full stop. End of discusion. If you think you can drive and also focus on a VDU then you're an arrogant twat who puts your own pleasure before the safety of others.
  • A good thing, right? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ksheka (189669) on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:02AM (#7859464)
    This is a good thing, right? I mean, if someone's using a computer in the front seat, chances are the driver's more likely to be distracted by it than if no one were using such a device. In addition, the banning of cell phones by the driver is probably a good thing. Yes, even those ones installed in cars. Haven't you noticed that you're less focused on a hands-free cell phone compared to when your not using one?

    While the law is a little broad (no cell phones by the passenger seat occupant), given the hair-splitting going on in courts, it's probably better for the law to be a little broad.
    • by diablobynight (646304) on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:13AM (#7859533) Journal
      lets make all cars remove vanity mirrors too then they are distracting for women putting on their make up in the morning. And make women where less revealing clothes so I don't get distracted looking at them. And remove all billboards, they distract me. Hey listen, I pay taxes, I pay for insurance, and I have never been in an accident. So don't be my mother and tell me a bunch of little small things I can't do, because something might happen if I do them. Lets have a little self government. Lets not make a thousand oppressive laws that just replace laws already in place. Like the laws that say you can't hit other vehicles on the road, those laws cover this inherently because if I am not paying attention and hit someone, I get in trouble. Simple as that, no more specific law needed.
      • And make women where less revealing clothes so I don't get distracted looking at them.

        Whoa now buddy! dont get too out of control here...

        nothing is better than riding with a friend in a Semi truck and being able to see down though a sunroof to that blond wearing a miniskirt and open top.... do you realize how far up those skirts ride when on the highway for a couple of hours?

        I'll gladly go off the road and end up in a roll over for that distraction... Hell probably still have the smile on my face w
  • Nav systems are OK (Score:5, Informative)

    by G4from128k (686170) on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:04AM (#7859472)
    The second page of the PDF [itsa.org] clearly exempts navigation systems from the ban (it also exempts veiw-enhancing monitors like rear-veiw TVs). What it does not exempt are those ever-enlarging screens for audio systems.
  • If you're driving (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tim C (15259) on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:05AM (#7859476)
    Then you shouldn't be doing anything that takes your attention away from the road - watching TV, consulting a map/navigation computer, changing the channel on the radio, using a phone, anything.

    That said, the linked text specifically exempts global positioning, mapping, vehicle information and vision enhancement displays. I would imagine that GPS units that include games would be covered, as long as you're not playing the game. Let's try to exercise some common sense, shall we?
  • that I can no longer use my laptop whilst using my mobile, holding my coffee, speaking to a passenger and driving. Damn

    Rus
  • Big Deal (Score:2, Insightful)

    by filtersweep (415712)
    Cell phone use while driving has been banned in many european countries for years. People actually respect the law and no one complains.

    I have no issue at all with any distracted driver laws. And yes, a GPS system can be a hazard while driving.

    I think it is a bizarre US issue that driving is somehow a god-given right... it is legal to drive a five times the legal intoxication limit of many european countries, while shaving, watching TV, reading a book, fiddling with the GPS, talking on the phone, et
    • Re:Big Deal (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CmdrGravy (645153) on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:21AM (#7859584) Homepage
      I think people just resent being told what to do because everyone almost automatically considers themselves to be "probably the safest driver on the road" so when they are eating their breakfast, grooming their dog, practicing their golf swings etc whilst driving they are sure that they are "doing it responsibly and safely"

      The problem is of course that in reality they are no where near as perfect as they like to think they are and even if they are perfect 99.9% of the time they spend driving it's the 0.1% when they aren't concentrating that they end up crashing.

      That's why laws like this one are so important, it's a way of impressing on people the actual definition of responsible driving as opposed to their perceived definition of responsible driving e.g. "it's me doing playing quake on my laptop and I sure don't want to kill anyone on the road so I must be playing quake responsibly".

      The fact is that cars and driving are a part of almost everyones daily routine and it's also a fact that it's very easy to kill a lot of people through a lapse of concentration in a car so any law which helps promote the idea that when driving a car you should be concentrating properly on the job in hand is a good thing in my opinion.
  • Text of the law (Score:5, Informative)

    by john82 (68332) on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:08AM (#7859495)
    For those who might not make it to the link...

    Existing law prohibits any person from driving a motor vehicle that is equipped with a television receiver, screen, or other means of visually receiving a television broadcast, if the device is located in the motor vehicle at any point forward of the back of the driver's seat, or is visible to the driver while operating the motor vehicle. This prohibition does not apply to a mobile digital terminal installed in a law enforcement vehicle.

    This bill would recast this prohibition and, additionally, would prohibit any person from driving a motor vehicle if a video monitor, or
    a video screen, or any other, similar means of visually displaying a video signal that produces entertainment or business applications, is operating and is located in the motor vehicle at any point forward of the back of the driver's seat, or is operating and visible to the driver while driving the motor vehicle. This prohibition would not apply to specified equipment or to a motor vehicle providing emergency road service or roadside assistance. Because a violation of this prohibition would be a crime, the bill would establish a state-mandated local program.


    So to answer some of the existing questions, law enforcement vehicles do not apply. However, if your co-working is wardriving while in the passenger seat, that's a vi-o-lation.
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:16AM (#7859563)
    The law [itsa.org] permits displays "if that equipment has an interlock device that, when the motor vehicle is driven, disables the equipment for all uses except as a visual display as described in paragraphs (1) to (4), inclusive."

    I would expect some clever peripherals maker (or hacker) to create an interlock device for computers that appropriately locks the computer when the car is in motion. The easiest design would simply blank the screen (a screen saver would not suffice as it might be construed as entertainment). A more complex design, tied to some navigation app, would force the display of the nav app (which is explicitly permitted under this law) and lock out all other apps and distractions. The device could connect wirelessly via bluetooth or via USB. The only obstacle is the hack into the vehicle system to detect the state of the transmission and engage the interlock when the vehicle is shifted out of the "Park."
  • Too Bad (Score:5, Funny)

    by Gudlyf (544445) <gudlyf@realis[ ].com ['tek' in gap]> on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:23AM (#7859599) Homepage Journal
    Looks like the sales of this doohickey [arkon.com] are just about shot now. Shucks.
  • by droleary (47999) on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:26AM (#7859623) Homepage
    I'll allow you these laws that limit my freedom (however justifiably) if you relax other laws that limit my freedom. To wit, for every communication device that I don't carry in my vehicle, let me go 5mph faster, since I would clearly be less distracted and therefore more able to drive at higher speeds (slower traffic move right, damn it! :-). Given that I have a motorcycle with no possible distraction from radios, cell phones, TVs, computers, massage seats, kids, or anything else to take my attention from the road, I would finally be able to open this baby up! As it stands, I'm expected to putter through traffic at the same speed as a soccer mom on her cell phone with 4 screaming kids in the back watching TV. TANJ!
    • by morcheeba (260908) on Friday January 02, 2004 @12:51PM (#7860782) Journal
      I like that idea, but I've got another one...

      At a certain number of points on a license, drivers will not be able to use air bags. A few more points, and no seatbelts. And then after that, the doors and front windshield will be removed. And finally, after a whole lot of points, a big spike gets installed on the steering wheel. Drivers can wait the time it takes for their points to expire, or they can choose to drive very carefully.
  • by ruiner13 (527499) on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:27AM (#7859629) Homepage
    I assume law enforcement is exempt from this? Have you seen lately all the computer equipment in the front seat of a police car, aimed directly at the officer driving? Doesn't seem fair that they are allowed to use that stuff and the average joe isn't. Most of the time around here, I see the police driving far worse than anyone else on the road.
    • I assume law enforcement is exempt from this?

      Of course they are. Hell, where I live they are exempt from using turn signals and making full stops at stop signs, apparently.
  • by fw3 (523647) * on Friday January 02, 2004 @10:58AM (#7859862) Homepage Journal
    I have an acquaintance at whom (or whose behavior) this is directly aimed; who routinely drives a 3 ton pickup truck, often with his laptop affixed to a installed bracket playing DVDs. Dumb.

    Thankyou, because I expect there are a lot of people doing this crap I'm perfectly glad if the law wants to also restrict the front-seat passenger also watching DVDs which would likely distract the vehicle operator.

    Toys are toys, if you want to play with your car rather than drive it then buy a big enough piece of land that you can get in a wreck without killing anyone else.

  • by Roblimo (357) on Friday January 02, 2004 @11:21AM (#7860055) Homepage Journal
    Years ago a cab company I worked with evaluated in-car dispatch terminals. We piloted them in 20 cabs (out of ~350) and decided that they were enough of an accident risk not to install them fleet-wide. A competing company got them, and sure enough, their accident rate, especially rear-ends, went up, and there was no evidence that they were able to handle radio calls more efficiently than with traditional voice dispatching.

    In fact, the only two supposed advantages of the computer system were that dispatching through it didn't take as much skill as radio dispatch so dispatchers could get paid less; and drivers who didn't speak English well enough for fast radio conversation could supposedly take radio calls more easily, but in the end everyone we knew who installed the systems found that these advantages never really materialized, because drivers who had trouble with English had trouble reading onscreen maps, and dispatchers still needed strong radio skills for emergency situations.

    We heard that local police departments (this was in Maryland) that installed mobile dispatch terminals also had higher accident rates, although for both cops and cabbies the increases leveled off as drivers got used to splitting their attention.

    I feel using a computer while driving is far more distracting than using a cell phone or other audio communication device. Most sensory input needed to drive safely is visual. But I don't think laws against computers in the front seat make sense. I've had both friends and cab/limo passengers use laptops in the front seat while I was driving, and found that this was lots less distracting than female passengers getting naked in the rear seat and shoving their breasts out the windows or over the seat onto my neck.

    - Robin

  • by chia_monkey (593501) on Friday January 02, 2004 @11:31AM (#7860147) Journal
    It baffles the mind that we need so many laws nowadays to keep people from killing each other or from harming themselves. "Warning, coffee is hot." WTF? You should know this. And now we have to make a LAW that says "keep your eyes and your mind on the road while driving"

    Granted, some people are soooooo talented and they can talk on the phone, chew gum, read a map, drink coffee, compose a musical, write a novel, read a map, and go to the bathroom all while driving. But the other 99% of humanity finds that when you take your eyes off the road, especially for extended periods of time, and requiring the use of your brain to comprehend things other than driving (or swerving cars, kids running in the street, other people not paying attention, etc), their driving becomes severely impaired.

    The part that REALLY gets me about this is that it shows how selfish and ignorant some people are. Fine, maybe you're a good driver. But you're out ther with thousands of other drivers. And other sudden hazzards and obstacles. Pay attention to the other drivers and keep everyone on the road safe.
    • If it's not a series of common lense laws that the government thinks is the best way to go about solving the problem about complete idiots doing completely idiotic things whilst driving, then the best alternative would probably be a public education campaign.

      Now I live in the UK, so my opinion may not be particularly brilliant here, but how difficult is it to pull off a huge-scale public education campaign in the US? I would have thought it would be quite difficult indeed.

      So it's either public education,
  • by iamhassi (659463) on Friday January 02, 2004 @11:53AM (#7860342) Journal
    "The law would seem to ban handheld computers being used as navigation aids, too, or GPS devices with games, and very soon, nearly all cell phones. "

    Not exactly. At the end it says: "does not apply to the following equipment when installed in a vehicle:
    1. A vehicle information display
    2. A global positioning display
    3. A mapping display
    4. A visual display used to enhance or supplement the driver's view forward, behind, or to the sides of the motor vehicle for the purpose of maneuvering the vehicle.
    5. A television receiver, video monitor, television or video screen, or any other, similar means of visually displaying a television broadcast or video signal, if that equipment has an interlock device that, when the motor vehicle is driven, disables the equpiment for all uses except as a visual displaay as described in paragraphs 1 to 4 (above), inclusive

    So to me it sounds like it only applies to playing games or watching TV while the vehicle is moving. If you have your laptop and it's displaying a GPS map you're fine.

  • Great (Score:4, Funny)

    by eap (91469) on Friday January 02, 2004 @12:14PM (#7860496) Journal
    This is just one more thing to make America less competitive in IT.

    Now all of our programming jobs will be outsourced to non-Frontseat-Computing-Ban countries like India, where carpooling engineers can get in than extra hour of programming each day.
  • by MouseR (3264) on Friday January 02, 2004 @12:33PM (#7860632) Homepage
    This is another stupid law designed to take away our liberties.

    It also reminds me a time where I was passenger in my friend's car (who was driving). We were on our way back from a small local Apple trade show. I was playing Falcon, the F16 flight simulator on our way back--I was quite an addict of that game back them.

    Quite suddenly, I lost control of the plane and the computer, an Apple PowerBook 160, was yelling at me "Pull up! Pull up!".

    The car crashed on the center girder of the highway at precisely the same time the F16 crashed on the ground. The plane was a total wreck. The car was considerably dammaged and both my friend and I were totally surprised to realize what had just happend, while massaging our sore necks.

    When the computer started yelling at me, it distracted my friend some more, wich was peeking one in a while at the screen. When he finally pulled up his eyes from the screen, he saw the traffic ahead in a dead stop, stomped the brake and steered the car clear of the cars in front of us, steering right into the girder.

    Stupid laws that take away our liberties also take away our chances at being total idiots and maiming ourselves the fun way. Never had Falcon been that dramatic before.
  • by melted (227442) on Friday January 02, 2004 @01:47PM (#7861220) Homepage
    Why oh why does the government have to protect its citizens from themselves. If they want to use a laptop - let'em use it. Give them the statistics on injuries, though so that they make an informed choice. People using laptop are usually not among the dumbest.
  • by 0WaitState (231806) on Friday January 02, 2004 @03:20PM (#7862022)
    For those of you living in California, especially around Fresno, contact the bills author, Sarah Reyes: Assemblywoman Reyes' contact info" [ca.gov]

    Carpooling passenger can't use a laptop or pda??? Do these people even live in the same world as those of us trying to make a living?
  • by Newer Guy (520108) on Friday January 02, 2004 @04:14PM (#7862501)
    See, our well intentioned but clueless lawmakers truly believe that they can establish a law to deal with every possible circumstance. Got a problem? Pass a law. Find another variation of the same problem? No sweat, pass another law! If I recall, even GOD only had TEN of them for us to follow. These clowns likely pass fifty times that amount every hour of every day! Look, there are certain things that can't be legislated only LEARNED. For one, you can't legislate morality. Nor can you legislate common sense, nor basic safety. Our government treats too many problems like crimes without even trying to really find the reason. For example, suicide is a crime. If you survive, they have no problem with arresting you and putting you in jail, even though 9999 times out of 10,000 there's an underlying reason. same thing with drug use. For some reason, we seem to always want the 'quick fix' and that means passing another law or rule. In a way, it's too bad that not having common sense isn't a crime; most of our lawmakers would wind up going to jail!
  • by Cyn (50070) <cyn&cyn,org> on Friday January 02, 2004 @08:21PM (#7864383) Homepage
    None of the comments I've read (and perhaps I missed the all important one) seem to address the real issue.

    It's not that the average person can't drive well while talking on a cellphone or otherwise distracted.

    It's that the average person can't drive well.

    PERIOD.

    Too many people assume driving is a simple task, when in reality your well being becomes the task of those around you who are busy anticipating your sudden lane change, noticing you drifting into their lane and backing off or changing so you don't sideswipe them, or noting that while their light just turned green - you don't seem to give a rats ass and are going to run a red light 3 seconds late.

    Drivers licenses are given out way too casually, and people aren't tested under real situations. I drove around in Ireland this summer - and while it's not nearly as much traffic, the roads are wide enough for two vehicles. Two vehicles hugging the shoulder - hoping their side view mirrors aren't the same elevation. I didn't get in an accident, I didn't see any accidents.

    One thing that was really refreshing, is when on the faster roads that have 'passing zones' - i.e. fewer lanes than one would prefer when stuck behind a slow vehicle - people routinely calmy wait for you to move aside for them, or calmy move aside for you (depending on who's going faster). Afterwards, the passer blinks their emergency lights as a "thank you" and goes on their merry way. That's right - motorists working together, and THANKING one another afterwards. I curse a storm in the states when I drive, I ENJOYED driving in Ireland - and not just on the scenic routes. Note: roundabouts kinda suck though, imo. They're good for low traffic, but damn they are pretty annoying in high traffic.

    Also: Get off your goddamn cellphone, it's sure not helping your driving. That's the bottom line - it's not helping, so unless it's a huge emergency and you're using a handsfree or a passenger is handling it - stfu.
  • by one-egg (67570) <geoff@cs.hmc.edu> on Saturday January 03, 2004 @02:53AM (#7865880) Homepage
    I guess if I can't use my laptop to read a scientific paper while sitting in the passenger seat, I shouldn't be able to read a book, either. Especially if it has pictures in it.

    I don't think many people object to bans on drivers using laptops. But writing the law so that the passenger is also banned, that's just stupid.

  • Androids (Score:3, Funny)

    by Frisky070802 (591229) * on Saturday January 03, 2004 @04:36PM (#7868606) Journal
    (Quite) a few years from now I can see a new civil rights drive, from androids complaining about being forced to the back of the bus^H^H^Hcar.

    Will the madness never end?

"When it comes to humility, I'm the greatest." -- Bullwinkle Moose

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