Teen Talk Equals Ticketing, Even Driving Hands-Free

Well, it’s D-day for driving, teens.

Much like the KFF study on teen media multitasking, lawmakers in California, cellphone capitol of the über-wired, have decided kids are driven to distraction, so it’s now officially ticket-city for teens…even if you’re using hands-free wireless. (DMV details here)

Don’t ask me how the police can tell the difference between kids wailin’ tunes while boppin’ down the highway or chatting to a friend hands-free, but consider yourself warned as the tickets will escalate, and there are few emergency exceptions. (in New Jersey, fines are $250!)

Now, many a teen has already yelped, “Unfair!” And rightfully so if you go by skill sets over statistics…I KNOW I get phone-distracted, and make it my policy NOT to car chat unless it’s full-tilt gridlock. Whereas my tween can thumb text while brushing her teeth with an ipod draped around her neck, concurrently stepping into her night clothes…Still, that doesn’t mean she should…Besides, she’s not encased in one ton of metal wielded like a lethal weapon careening out of control, and, um…she doesn’t drive yet.

Much like the laws of legal drinking age, learner’s permits, and even teen car insurance rates, this will still spawn some ‘road rage’ of its own with teen accusations of ageism.

You may feel you’re fully capable of texting faster than you speak, chatting while IM-ing, and friending your latest virtual bud on a mobile-social site, but lawmakers in 33 states have introduced 127 bills related to driver distraction this year alone, and CA and Washington today join Connecticut, D.C., N.Y., and New Jersey, who have hands-free laws already, so it seems it was a matter of time.

Cellphone laws vary from state to state, as do research studies, as this L.A. Times article cites controversial data about whether hands-free is any less distracting than holding the phone up to your ear, since the causal link is the distraction itself…

So an even bigger question might be, what’s the net gain here for ANY age?

But as of midnight, ‘it’s the law’…and as Steve Hymon, the Road Sage says, ‘that’s only half the battle.’

Mind you, wireless marketers stand to make a mint off of mandates, so I’m sure lobbyists have done their part to fan the safety flames…Even though it’s a common sense idea.

Adding my two cents of perspective for teens, there will always be responsible people persecuted for irresponsible actions of their peers…Just like ethical marketers get caught in the web of new laws intended to govern morally bankrupt bozos…

If it seems like a stretch to equate new FCC regulatory parameters with the mobile-social teen scene, I’d say it’s actually not very far off at all.

Think about it. In an ideal world it would be fabulous to rely on self-governance, common sense decency and a digital version of the ‘do no harm’ Hippocratic oath…

But it’s not flying. And innocents are being hurt at ever-increasing speed, sometimes fatally.

If you can’t discern whether we’re talking about media or mobile, I’ve made my point. (Part 3 on the product placement series still to come)

So yes, in short, reactions to hands-free laws will no doubt be mixed, as this wry adult named ‘Road Rage’ on the Detroit Free Press (Freep/beta site) said,

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and I promise not to smoke outside of my house, not to talk on a cell phone while driving, not to drink more than one drink an hour if I drove to the bar, to always wear my seat belt, to wear a helmet when riding, to keep any small children in a booster chair in my car according to the regualtions, to not set fire to any plants and breathe in the smoke no matter where I am if it is on the forbidden list, to come to a full stop and proceed when safe at all stop signs and to not feed the geese.”

Or this amusing anecdote from Governor Schwarzenegger himself quoted by BlogHer’s Jody DeVere, President of the automotive advice blog and site for women called AskPatty.com, (complete with CarBlabber social media reviews)

I told my daughters: ‘I give you the car. I give you the cellphone, but if I see you one time using both at the same time, both of them are gone.’ ” Schwarzenegger added, ” ‘The car will be gone for a long time and the phone will be gone for a long time. You go to school with the bus.’ They know that.”

Jody also did a great little BlueTooth review round-up, if you’re still in last minute-mode on the hands-free cell scene, and she offered a video clip about a teen being told to get off the cellphone by his driving instructors just for grins.

To ‘parrot’ what I was saying earlier about boon vs. bust on the hands-free device demand, Jody quoted the COO of Parrot.com himself,

“Drivers are now caught in the Bluetooth wave here in the U.S.,” says Ed Valdez, President and COO of Parrot, Inc., a supplier of car kits for original equipment and aftermarket installation. “Bluetooth-enabled cell phones accounted for about 70 percent of new phones sold in the fourth quarter of 2007 while MP3 capability was integrated in nearly 50 percent them. Using a Bluetooth-enabled hands-free solution with new features like audio streaming may no longer be a luxury but a necessity.”

Thanks, gang, I kept wondering what that Parrot billboard, “move wireless” was about as I drove northbound out of the Silicon Valley…I kept thinking it was like “Jott” but now I ‘get it’ fully.

Adults take awhile, teens, please bear with us. Sheesh, I thought a ‘Parrot Party’ was a Jimmy Buffett fest of ‘parrotheads.’ Ah, all these new meanings…how to keep up in a wireless world.

How is today’s new law landing on teens as it goes into effect?

Well, I went to AT&T, Apple, Verizon, and T-Mobile for a sampling, just to witness the madness as adults tried to figure out Bluetooth nuances accompanied by teens consulting on cue.

Here are a few overheard random teen snippets…

“Do they really think this is going to help?”

“Click it or ticket!”

“Mom, I should get an upgrade to my cell for helping you!”

“See? You don’t even know how to WORK this thing! And they’re telling TEENS they can’t use them?”

“omg, you are so lame, that’s NOT where the clamp goes!”

“Get one I can use too!”

“You’ll never figure out the BlueTooth, just get the wire kind.”

“It wasn’t MY fault it dropped in the water, I tripped! Besides, I need a new phone anyway.”

“If I pay for it with my own money, what do YOU care?”

And…of course, the most common, ubiquitous howl, whether from adults being told they’d need a ‘new service contract’ or kids capped with limited text/data plans…

“IT’S NOT FAIR!!!”

And there you have it.

Road rage in the cell store…

(This feature applies to all models; all ages, no restrictions apply. 😉

Related Resources

State by State Chart of Cell Phone Driving Laws (Governor’s Hwy Safety Assoc)

DMV Specifics on Warnings, Terms, & Ticketing in Ca. July 1, 2008

What Might the Hands-Free Law Accomplish? (LA Times by Steve Hymon)

No Hands on Cell Phones is Only Half the Battle: (RoadSage/LA Times by Steve Hymon)

Study: Hands Free Mobile Laws Could Save Thousands of Lives (RealTechNews)

Hands Free Law A Boon for BlueTooth (Fortune/CNN Money)

Visual Credits: Jody DeVere’s BlogHer site, istockphoto

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