The state law, passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this year, expands an existing driving ban on the use of cellular phones without a hands-free device. That ban went into effect in July.
Under the latest law, written by state Sen. Joe Simitian of Silicon Valley, motorists will not be able to write or read text messages while driving. State law enforcement say mobile phone use is a leading cause of accidents in California.
Text messaging has exploded in the last few years and has become a significant revenue generator for wireless carriers. As a result, the industry is looking to expand the service to make it possible to integrate sound clips, animation, text, and locations with messages.
The market for mobile messaging is expected to rise from $151 billion in 2008 to more than $212 billion by 2013, according to ABI Research. Nevertheless, mobile phone users are becoming increasingly concerned with the cost of the overall service. A recent survey by Consumer Reports found that 14% of cell phone users believe the service is getting too expensive.
Along with restricting mobile-phone use while driving, California lawmakers have loosened the ban on mounting a navigation system on a vehicle's dash. Starting Jan. 1, drivers will be allowed to install the devices on the bottom right or left side of the windshield, as long at the systems don't block an air bag.