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Distracted biking: Does California law address that?

On Behalf of | Nov 23, 2015 | Bicycle Accidents |

As a group, bicyclists are no different from any other demographic subset of American life for being susceptible to the addictive qualities of mobile devices and their plethora of so-called apps.

That is, that Apple or Samsung smartphone both figuratively and literally calls to bikers the same way it beckons to many millions of other consumers.

The problem, of course, is that some of those bicyclists are, well, bicycling when the phone rings or when they feel compelled to otherwise engage with it.

And that can obviously be dangerous, given the easily noted and heightened vulnerabilities of bikers who are amidst motorized traffic out on streets and roadways.

Here’s a question: Does California law address distracted bicycle riding? Specifically, have state lawmakers enacted legislation that places restrictions on things like headphone use and texting while biking?

In a word, yes.

A recent media article focusing on states’ distracted driving laws targeting bicyclists cites California as being among a small minority of states that bans the use of headsets and ear plugs for bicyclists. California’s ban only extends to devices that cover both ears.

And there is — as yet — no proscription that attaches to texting while biking. As the above article notes, the California Legislature did pass a bill addressing that subject several years ago, but it was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Unquestionably, bikers can be distracted just as much while out on the road as are many drivers of passenger vehicles.

Unsurprisingly, there are both advocates and critics of legislation targeting distracted biking. Many proponents of tighter controls on bicyclists emphasize their singular vulnerability and obvious need for protection.

Naysayers, though, are far from convinced that an extra layer of laws singling out bikers is necessary.

“There’s a huge difference between distracted driving that kills someone and distracted biking that doesn’t,” says one cycling commentator.


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