July 29th, 2009
01:54 PM ET
5 years ago

Senators push nationwide ban on texting while driving

Four senators introduced a bill Wednesday that would ban texting while driving.
Four senators introduced a bill Wednesday that would ban texting while driving.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Four senators pushed for a bill Wednesday to ban texting while driving, a day after a study found that drivers who text while on the road are much more likely to have an accident than an undistracted driver.

Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-New York; Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey; Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana; and Kay Hagan, D-North Carolina, unveiled the ALERT Act, which would ban truck and car drivers and operators of mass transit from texting while driving.

The proposed legislation would prohibit any driver from sending text or e-mail messages while driving a vehicle, said an earlier news release from the senators. If the bill passes, the Department of Transportation would set the minimum standards for compliance.

States that do not enact text-banning laws within two years of the bill's passage could lose 25 percent of their federal highway funds, Schumer said in a news conference announcing the legislation. The non-compliant states could recuperate that money once they meet the text-banning standards, Schumer added.

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia already have laws barring texting while driving, which include the home states of three of the bill's sponsors: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

New York does not have a ban against texting, but has barred using handheld phones while driving, according to the Governor's Highway Safety Association. Schumer said New York's legislature has sent Gov. David Paterson a bill to ban texting as well.

"The legislation will send an important message to drivers across the country: Get your hands off the cell phone and back on the wheel," Schumer said.

The senators cited a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study that found that truck drivers who texted while driving were 23 times more likely to crash or get into a near-wreck than undistracted drivers.

When compared to dialing, talking, listening or reaching for an electronic device, texting posed the greatest accident risk, the study found, attributing it to the almost five seconds they found the driver's eyes were off the roadway while texting, said Rich Hanowski, the director of the Center for Truck and Bus Safety at the transportation institute.

"Not having [a cell phone] in your hand while driving could be the difference between life and death," said Menendez.

In September, a commuter train engineer missed a stop signal while trading text messages with a friend, leading to a collision with a freight train that killed 25 people in California, according to federal investigators. The accident injured 101 people.

A mass-transit accident injured 62 people in May when two trains collided in Boston, Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said. The operator of the trolley was charged in July for gross negligence after he admitted to texting seconds before his collision with another trolley, according to the Suffolk County district attorney and a National Transportation Safety Board official.

–CNN Radio's John Lisk contributed to this report.


Filed under: Kay Hagan • Mary Landrieu • Robert Menendez
soundoff (134 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    After I saw the demonstration on tv last night, I think this legislation is needed and specifically should target drivers under the age of 18.

    July 29, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  2. Henry Miller

    Uh, where in the Constitution is the Federal government given the power to do this?

    Answer: nowhere.

    The trick is in the statement "States that do not enact text-banning laws within two years of the bill's passage could lose 25 percent of their federal highway funds."

    This is an utterly cynical evasion of the intent Constitution and, as far as I'm concerned, not far from treasonous.

    If the states want to enact such a prohibition, that's their affair, as guaranteed under the Tenth Amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

    July 29, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  3. Expat American

    This is a good thing. Too many accidents occur on the roads when inconsiderate people are texting while driving...and innocent people get hurt!

    Some people will never realize that the world doesn’t care and doesn't revolve around how their big ol' American butt looks in their 'skinny' jeans or how many 'hot' happy hour girls' wanted their number last night.

    America truly is the country of 'Me First – Not My Fault’

    July 29, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  4. Sujith, Lincoln. NE

    YES ! About time !

    July 29, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  5. drew

    Lots of things make a driver more dangerous. Just because there's something that makes someone more likely to have a crash doesn't mean we should make it a law. What's next, a ban on radios? Use of a radio also makes a driver more likely to crash, and yet we've never made radios illegal.

    July 29, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  6. kishen c.rao

    It also needs to push stop using cell phones while driving....it is a biggest threat....of course, again, cell phones companies will definitely push and lobby...of course!!!! Stop using cell phones while driving...please, it is for your own good...

    July 29, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  7. Ken

    Isn't this a state issue?

    July 29, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  8. PFFT

    Ahhh, the first of the blackmail from the Federal government. I totally support the ban on texting. However, I don't feel that the feds should BLACKMAIL states.

    July 29, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  9. Sick -n- Tired

    Gee, what a good idea. DUH!

    July 29, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  10. Reality

    I think this is a tremendous idea! We survived as a nation long before texting and cellphones. It is a matter of safety and people are dying from it.

    July 29, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  11. Some republican guy

    Now the narcissistic obamabots are trying to tell me what I can and cannot do in the privacy of my own extremely large SUV. Dangit, this all started with that socialistic seatbelt law. Have a nice day!

    July 29, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  12. Richie

    It should be illegal to do anything other than drive while behind the wheel of a vehicle. PERIOD. And if someone in an accident is doing such an activity, they should be PRESUMED to be at fault and 100% responsible financially.

    July 29, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  13. Tim

    I do it, but It is not a good thing. I'm in favor of a ban on texting.

    July 29, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  14. J.C.

    Cell phones were invented for emergency. Chatting on cell phones while driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. Children should not use cell phones except for emergencies, but nobody is reading the fine prints that came with the cell phone box.

    The law may specify that talking on hand-free cell phones while driving can only be allowed at the maximal speed of 10 mph in traffic jam.
    Why not learn a new foreign language on your daily expected traffic jam?

    July 29, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  15. Hugo

    OMG, this will kill Obama's network of McDonald's munching liberals that tweet their Senators on the way back from getting their welfare checks. They are all driving Black Escalades, made possible only by the cash for clunkers program and the subprime loan programs. I'd better get back to work now to help pay for it all, have a great day!

    July 29, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  16. Randolph Carter

    Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-New York; Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey; Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana; and Kay Hagan, D-North Carolina, unveiled the ALERT Act, which would ban truck and car drivers and operators of mass transit from texting while driving.

    So I can still text on a motorcycle? Awesome. Have a nice day!

    July 29, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  17. Erin

    Yeah texting while driving is stupid and dumb. People could could killed and injured. But at the same time a law isn't going to stop anyone especially the main texters, teens. The drinking age law doesn't stop the majority of underage teens, why would a law against texting do anything? It's sad that this generation can't get the message about how horrible it really is, but in most cases a law against it only makes them want to do it even more. Such as drinking, smoking, and now texting?
    what good is this really going to do? nothing. its a waste of money and time

    July 29, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  18. Bridgette

    I totally agree with this bill. Anybody with common sense should know that is not safe and should not be done.

    July 29, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  19. Obama=Trickle up Poverty

    This is crazy. It should banned immediately and not take an act of God to get it done. When did common sense go out with the trash?

    July 29, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  20. Kevin in Ohio

    More big brother, big government extortion. Yes, texting is stupid. But we do not need more federal laws which threaten the states.

    July 29, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  21. Bedtime for Obonzo

    Two words - Federal extortion.

    July 29, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  22. Ken

    This is all fine and good, but who and how are the law enforcers going to even enforce the law if it is passed?

    Besides that, there are way more idiots that will break the law and still do it and be hazards for the rest of us.

    COMMON SENSE, you would think would already know that it is dangerous to text while driving. Being a old trucker, I have seen people doing things while driving that would scare you to death.

    SOME PEOPLE JUST FLAT DON'T GIVE A DAM FOR FOLLOWING THE LAWS IN THIS COUNTRY!!!!

    July 29, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  23. Once You Vote Black

    What about states rats?

    July 29, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  24. RR

    I agree texting while driving is bad, but the federal government should not be blackmailing states into adopting this. Let the states decide without having big brother threatening to withhold funds.

    Enough big brother government!

    July 29, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  25. Jane

    Make the fines high enough to actually try to curb texting while driving

    July 29, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
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