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As any New Yorker will cheerfully tell you, California's drivers are second to none in the nation. They possess what seems to be a sixth sense when it comes to anticipation and awareness, and their vehicle handling would shame a professional rally driver.

So much so that East Coast visitors can often be seen saluting this fusion of man and machine from their own vehicles. All of which makes a law regulating the use of cellphones while driving a little necessary, you might think.

But the state legislature is currently mulling SIMITIAN, SB 1613, which would prohibit the use of cellphones while driving unless the driver was using a hands free.

Palm's CEO has become the first tech vendor to speak in favour of the legislation.

"Palm was the first, and to date remains the only, major cell phone manufacturer to support the bill," the company reminded us yesterday.

As to why the rest are laggards is puzzling. UK technology vendors discovered, when similar legislation came into effect, that it's a boon for anyone in the Bluetooth business.

California's law would come into effect in July 2008 and repeat offenders would be fined up to $50. That's one-nineteenth of the penalty British drivers risk if they yak and drive without a hands free.

Conflicting research won't help settle the issue. Some evidence suggests that talking while driving is more dangerous than drunk driving. Utah researchers say that a cellphone turns a 20-year-old's reaction times into those of a 70 year old. Other studies suggest that it's the conversation, rather than the fact that there's one hand on the steering wheel, that's to blame. ®

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