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. Kevin from Co

    I can't believe it took this long to push such a common sense bill. And did it really take a study to see that texting while driving might be distracting? What ever happened to commom sense in this country?

    July 29, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  2. Dave

    It's way past time to ban all mobile phone use while driving. This means talking and texting. Make the fines so steep that people won't even consider it.

    July 29, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  3. NC Citizen

    I agree, this is one of the best laws about to be past. Texting is just not acceptable while driving, how can you have your eye on the car or cars around you and you're so into texting with your head hanging down, what if that car you wrecked with, had your child or family member in it and you hit and killed someone while you were texting could you live with yourself?

    July 29, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  4. Scott

    This is a no brainer! It's a shame that peolple need to have this legistalted in order not to do it. You would think that drivers would be smarter than this.

    July 29, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  5. Dennis

    It is about time, although I expect there will be a great hue and call from those who would argue about 'big brother'. Never mind about all the needless lives lost and the pain caused by it. For those who complain about the high cost of insurance, but are willing to allow idiots who should be alert when they are driving to continuing texting or talking on their phones should pay double. Also I believe that those responsible for causing a fatal accident while texting or talking on their phone should automatically be given a mandatory life prison sentence.

    July 29, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  6. USA

    I will concur with this law 100 percent, actually holding a phone and driving should be against the law period.

    July 29, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  7. Jay C.

    Amen. If you're important enough to have to stay in touch 24/7, you'd have a chauffeur. If you're self-important, turn off your cellphone, and get psychotherapy.

    July 29, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  8. Wayne Messer

    It should be banned PERIOD!!!! To many narcissistic morons are thinking it is our responsibility to look out for their inappropriate behavior. I've seen and witnessed enough accidents that anyone driving should be charged as if they were intoxicated when they are involved in an accident

    July 29, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  9. Esco

    In Colorado, people are really starting to become obessed with driving while texting. I can understand if you saw something and you wanted to report it to the news agency or radio...but if you are doing this everyday, it because a problem for other drivers because people that text and drive swerve a lot! I'm just getting tired of almost getting run off the road everyday i drive to and from work.

    July 29, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  10. Fred Palafox

    This is a no-brainer. I always see people crossing in and out of their lanes looking down at cell phones. I can't imagine any text message that is worth risking someones life over. It's not in the same league but I wish that the movie houses would do something about cell phones in the theater. They put the no cell phone message in the previews but nobody seems to pay any attention.

    July 29, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  11. Austen Partrane

    How about turning on the wipers while driving, changing CD's while driving, looking at the pretty girl in the seat beside you while driving, etc, etc??? Must the democrats involve themselves in every moment of our lives? They must believe Americans to be stupid, like the president thinks of policemen.

    July 29, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  12. Scott, Tucson

    '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,'

    In other words this is nothing more than further Federal blackmailing of the states to bend to the wishes of Washington.

    July 29, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  13. Uncle Ellsworthy

    This apparently is really needed. You would think that common sense would be something that would prevent this happening. Apparently common sense is in short supply these days. My own humble personal view is that only an idiot would send and receive text messages while driving. Good Lord people, nothing, NOTHING is so important that it would make it imperative to do this. You people that do this, what in the world are you thinking? Anything?

    July 29, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  14. Tony

    Hawaii also has a ban on any cell use while driving. You can only use a hands free device. You only have to be caught hold a cell phone while driving to get a ticket. So 15 states not 14. You need to check your facts better CNN.

    July 29, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  15. The Lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    another unenforcable law that will cost taxpayers. How about putting on make up, reading, watching TV or a DVD while driving? I know maybe only the ultra wealthy should have the privaliage to drive, the working people can ride horses again huh?
    The use of a cell phone is already banned, why not enforce that law?

    July 29, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  16. midwest liberal

    This is a very good thing! I was almost the victim once of someone driving and texting as I was crossing an intersection.

    I'm always shocked, however (okay, not really...), that there has to be laws enacted to make people to use common sense.

    July 29, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  17. Justin Law

    Call me crazy, but by law a driver is supposed to have both hands on the wheel at ALL times. Would this not also mean that texting, e-mailing, etc while driving is ALREADY against the law? Do we really need to spend time and money proposing a law that technically already exists?

    July 29, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  18. Todd (not the Alaska Separatist)

    Good law, go Dems. Right wing Team Hate America politicos on the dole from telecom industry dollars will no doubt object

    July 29, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  19. Jasmine in Germany

    What took them so long? This has been illegal in many other countries for many years as is using hand held phones. Hands on the wheel, please!

    July 29, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  20. Howard

    Sounds great, but it's essentially unenforceable until there's an accident.

    July 29, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  21. P.Harrison

    I totally support a nation wide ban on texting while driving.
    several times a day I see people with their eyes completely off the road,and drawn to their phone,or other handheld device.
    I have had way too many close calls with these people!!

    July 29, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  22. T

    Another common sense bill from the Democrats.......

    July 29, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  23. GDB

    Yes, please ban texting while driving! I recently had someone run into the back of my car while texting. I support this measure 100%

    July 29, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  24. twitwits are the new nitwits

    Dont forget all the twitwits,who think everything they do at every moment is so important to the rest of us.hahaha

    July 29, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  25. LouAz

    Amazing that common sense needs to be a law. Congress will never do it. They don't have the collective will. There will be partisan bickering over this, which of course is preposterous.

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