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. Steve in Michigan

    Recently in our state, a driver ran a stop sign while texting, hitting another vehicle, killing its driver and injuring his wife. This selfish practice of having to be in constant communication 24/7 has got to stop, especially when behind the wheel of a moving object.

    July 29, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  2. S M R

    A good law to pass. Some people can't drive very well and then put a cell phone in their hand. SCARY

    July 29, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  3. Scotty

    It's something. All cell phone use should be banned. Hang up the phone and drive!

    July 29, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  4. jake1969

    While it will obviously be tough to enforce, I'm all for it. I can't believe any idiot would text while driving. 50,000 plus die a year on our roads. 90% of those cases are driver error. Drive people! Texting, cell phones, TVs, ... at some point it's gotta stop.

    July 29, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  5. Patrish

    Well it's about time we get texting banned for drivers. How about banning cells phones while driving, shopping, eating, and using the bathroom? I'm so fed up with them, I'd like to throw them all down a toilet! Get a life and get off that phone!

    July 29, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  6. Jeff

    Ok then.

    Should we ban eating, applying makeup, smoking, shaving, iPod browsing, changing the radio channel, talking to other passengers, TVs, and drinking while we're at it?

    July 29, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  7. PC FROM DC

    Only a suicidal person text while driving!!

    July 29, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  8. Peoples Voice

    What a great idea...excuse me for a sec. I gotta make a left turn.

    Now where was I? BAM!! Oh crap.

    July 29, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  9. sue

    We should just arrest all people who are stupid! It's called Driving Under the Influence of Stupidity!

    July 29, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  10. Bill, Bloominton IL

    About time

    July 29, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  11. R in Maine

    Texting has killed a lot of people already.

    July 29, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  12. Jon, Pittsburgh, PA

    I'd call texting "distracted" driving. My guess is that every state already has a law against distracted driving – why do we need a new law? And why is the federal government concerning itself with individuals actions while driving? Aren't they supposed to be focused on national security?

    July 29, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  13. RW

    Is this really necessary....More Government.... is this any worse than looking for a music cd and changing it, brushing your hair, or putting on make up, eating a sandwich, talking to your passenger, for goodness sake we are building cars with tv and video. Point , there are many things that distract drivers everyday, but we can't outlaw them all. The problem is that people need to be responsible for their actions.

    July 29, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  14. mhm

    A moderate is wishy washy?

    No, a moderate is not an extremist. Extremists on any side of an issue are bad.

    Wow.

    July 29, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  15. Mike M

    This should be a state issue rather than something that should be pushed by congress.

    July 29, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  16. CF

    As long as they're pushing for this, they might as well go all the way and ban talking on cell phones while driving too. That is just as dangerous (and annoying)

    July 29, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  17. RW

    Oh and I am sure they would want the law written so that Senators, Law Enforcement, Emergency responders, etc. would all be exempt......

    July 29, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  18. GaVoter

    More federal laws we don't need..

    July 29, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  19. Vicky from Milwaukee

    We must be a nation of idiot. Why on earth should it be necessary to legislate something like this? Anyone with a half of brain should know not to text while driving.

    July 29, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  20. Real Republican

    Let's ban illegal wars and let's ban warrantless wiretapping and torture and death squads. This is a joke.

    July 29, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  21. pinkkiwi6

    Since the distraction of a discussion with someone on the phone or while texting has been shown to be the real culprit, why don't we ban all hand-held devices and allow cell-jamming technology in cars? Its not so much whether you hold the phone, talk through an earpiece, or text while driving, its whether you are having a conversation at all that causes accidents. Let's stop this nonsense and just institute cell-jamming technology. Period.

    July 29, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  22. John

    People are stupid enough to need laws that should be common sense. No matter how idiotic the activity is, you can find someone driving while doing it.

    July 29, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  23. Jack Jodell, Minneapolis, MN

    Now here's a common sense matter ALL can agree on!

    July 29, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  24. Andrew

    I'm surprised it took this long. Texting and even just talking on cell phones are equivalent to moderate drunk driving.

    July 29, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  25. Nick 27, So Cal

    This is all nice and dandy, but it will do nothing until cops start enforcing these laws. I live in CA and all the new technology in vehicles are going to cause accidents for years to come. Enforcement is the key but I don't see it all in my state as I do see hundreds of drivers every week talking on their phones and texting. It is a huge problem because people are getting lazy and don't even use their turn signals and I see a lot of rear end accidents!!

    July 29, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
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