Senators Seek to Ban Texting While Driving
States would be required to ban driving while sending text messages or e-mailing under the ALERT Drivers Act. States that refuse to comply would face the loss of highway funds under the proposed legislation.
Lawmakers proposed federal legislation July 29 that would mandate that
states ban the sending of text messages or e-mail while operating a car or
truck. States would have two years to pass the ban or risk losing 25 percent of
their annual federal highway finding per year that they fail to comply with the
The ALERT Drivers (Avoiding Life-Endangering and Reckless Texting by Drivers) Act would apply to anyone operating a personal car, truck or bus, as well as to drivers working for most mass transit systems, including light rail. The legislation would not apply to individuals using mobile devices while their vehicles are stopped, nor would it apply to passengers.
"Studies have shown over and over that texting while driving is dangerous and it's time to take action to prevent the tragic accidents that result from this activity," Sen. Charles Schumer, one of four senators sponsoring the bill, said in a statement. "We have seen too many lives ruined due to drivers recklessly using their cell phones. With this new legislation, drivers will finally be held responsible for dangerous behavior that puts the public at risk."
The proposed legislation follows a July 27 study released by VTTI (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute) concluding that text messaging while driving should be banned in moving vehicles to avoid a traffic crash epidemic. Text messaging on a cell phone was associated with the highest risk of all cell phone-related tasks.
With a risk over 20 times higher than driving while not using a phone, texting while driving involves the longest duration of time with the driver's eyes away from the road, the equivalent of traveling the length of a football field at 55 mph without looking at the roadway, according to the study.
"iPhones, Sidekicks and BlackBerrys are ingenious, indispensable devices. But while they make our lives so much easier, they make driving that much harder," bill co-sponsor Sen. Robert Menendez said in a statement July 29. "Texting while driving should be illegal on every road, every railway, in every state. Anything we can do at every level of government to raise awareness and stop texting while driving will save lives-particularly the lives of those new drivers who are accustomed to texting anywhere, anytime. They are at risk, and they put our families at risk."
Fourteen states and the District Columbia have already passed laws banning text messaging and e-mailing while driving.