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Soon you’ll be able to text a bit easier while driving but you still have to do it hands free.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed a bill, Assembly Bill 1536, that will allow drivers starting Jan. 1 to use a “electronic wireless communications device … specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation to dictate, send or  listen to a text-based communication, and it is used in that manner while driving .”

Assemblyman Jeff Miller, R-Corona, introduced the legislation to take advantage of new technology, such as automaker-installed messaging systems. The law now only refers to voice-operated, hands-free devices.

Miller called Brown’s signing “a huge victory for commuters as AB 1536 will now make it easier to utilize new technology to its full advantage, allowing Californians to communicate safely and responsibly while on the road.”

“As a father, husband and small business owner who has frequently commuted on State Route 91 for years, I am thrilled to announce that Californians will now be able to communicate with friends, family and business partners while driving because it is currently against the law to operate text based functions while driving, ” Miller said in a statement. Highway 91 is in the Los Angeles area.

The base fine for violating the hands-free law will be $20 for the first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses. But with additional penalties and fees the Legislature has added to traffic fines, the total cost would be $160 for a first offense and $280 for additional ones.

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