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Texting while driving now kinda legal

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Texting Driving
Though texting with your fingers remains illegal, texting from behind the wheel will soon be OK — as long as it's hands-free. (Jason Weaver/Flickr)

Talking to Siri isn’t as fluid as Samuel Jackson or as annoyingly charming as Zooey Deschanel makes it out to be.

But beginning Jan. 1, California drivers will be able to dictate garbled text messages to friends, family and colleagues from behind the wheel.

Friday morning, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 1536, otherwise known as the “Freedom to Communicate” bill. The bill allows drivers to use voice-activated devices to dictate, send or listen to text-based communications.

The new law was introduced by assemblyman Jeff Miller (R-Corona), who called the bill’s passing a “huge victory for drivers.” According to a recent press release, the father, husband and small business owner said:

“…[T]his bill will allow Californians to communicate safely and responsibly while on the road.”

It still seems unclear, though, which technologies have been given the green light, and which will still result in a $100-plus fine.

While many news outlets have reported Apple’s Siri application makes the cut, the Associated Press reported that aides from Miller’s office say it isn’t so. According to the California Highway Patrol, drivers who simply turn on a cellphone or select a phone’s hands-free text app can still be ticketed.

CHP spokeswoman Jaime Coffee told the AP:

“The phone can’t be in your hands. Hands-free is the key.”

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