July 29th, 2009
01:54 PM ET
9 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. Bob from Pittsburgh


    Today a young girl just about run me out of the road, yes she was texting..

    Better yet that to make it illegal is to ban the service all together. Get the communication companies to stop the service, and then will be no more texting..

    Is utterly ridiculous, but more importantly DANGEROUS..

    July 29, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  2. morgan

    I think it's sad that we need a law to ban texting while driving. Shouldn't some things just be common sense? Have we become so self absorbed that we don't know when something is unacceptable and dangerous to everyone around us?

    July 29, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  3. Obama Victim

    this is good...but not far enough...no hands on cell use either

    July 29, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  4. DLHanna

    I have never received a text that was soo important, that it had to be answered while driving; or crossing the street.

    July 29, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  5. Mark S.

    Totally agree. But how do you determine whether someone was texting after an accident? Do to cops expect him or her to tell the truth? They could just as easily say "I was changing the radio station and was distracted..."

    July 29, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  6. Brook Mantia

    None too soon either! But isn't it sad that people are so clueless and self-absorbed that we need to Pass a Law to make people use a little Common Sense?

    Our whole culture is so A.D.D. no one can focus on one thing for more than 5 seconds, let alone anything outside their immediate sphere of existence. Can't even pay enough attention to walking down the street to not fall in a manhole...

    Wake up and look around you for goodness sake!

    July 29, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  7. Tony G

    It's so funny because I live in Virginia and saw a police officer texting while driving the other day. Will he write himself a ticket?

    July 29, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  8. Marcus, Great Lakes Illinois

    Wish they had done that awhile ago. If they had, or if there was some repercussions for their actions (texting while driving) one of my friends might still be alive today instead of being run down on his motorcycle.

    July 29, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  9. Mike

    There are laws that cover this problem – Careless Driving, Manslaughter, etc.

    Love our Country – Hate our Governement!!!

    July 29, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  10. Independent Bob

    Another example of the federal government brandishing a hammer to make the States comply with its wishes.

    I think the federal government would love to just do away with the states and consolidate all power at the federal level. However, the Constitution doesn't allow that.

    Somewhere between the Constitutional Convention and now, the republic which the Constitution established has changed dramatically and I would say not for the better.

    July 29, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  11. Keith in Austin

    Although the legislation makes sense please note that this is yet another example of more federal Government control of our lives. Don't allow them the opportunity to have a beurocrat making decisions on your healthcare too! If left unguarded, democracy as we know it will soon be a thing of the past!

    July 29, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  12. Dan in NY

    I personally think that a ban on texting while driving just makes good sense. Many states ban you from talking on a handheld cell phone, but not typing. But, I think a Federal ban is a dangerous proposition. States set their own laws with respect to driving and cell phone operation, and it is not the job of the Federal government's role to do the job of the state. And this is coming from a New York Democrat!

    July 29, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  13. Darla (Edmonton, Canada)

    What a sad comment on our whole society, when it takes legislation to try and stop people from doing something so obviously STUPID! Why don't we all wake up and individually choose to do the right thing ... then the government wouldn't need to intrude into our lives so much.

    July 29, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  14. R in Maine

    Texting has killed a lot of people already, because people who text do not care about other people on the road.

    July 29, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  15. jaye

    This is excellent news!
    Too many people are maimed and killed by these idiots texting (and cell phoning) while driving.

    July 29, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  16. Dick

    I'm sure that passing a law prohibiting texting while driving will eliminate the problem. Look what speed limits have done for speeders. I have a better idea. Every time you see someone talking on their cell phone, texting, putting on makeup or eating while they are driving, just honk your horn at them to get their attention back on driving. After awhile they might get the message.

    July 29, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    Well...maybe we can leave it legal for GOPers...they're likely to complain this is all part of the Obama "police state" and "fascist socialism" (lol), so we might as well let them learn the hard way.

    July 29, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  18. Old Farmboy

    Texting is illegal in my state. The only problem is though, it is illegal to text, it's not illegal to read a text that has been sent to you. The problem our state is facing is how do you enforce it? What they're saying here is that, unless it's blatant, it can't be enforced unless there's an incident and a court order, or part of an investigation into a death as a result of an accident. It's a shame that a law has to be passed to make people use common sense.

    July 29, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  19. JonDie

    Here in my community, the police don't even enforce the existing traffic safety laws; they've got so much work as limited resources as it is, so passing a law won't do anything to fix the growing problem. The problem, in fact, is that most Americans just aren't smart enough to understand that there is a problem. Gadgetry has dumbed down everyone.

    However, at least if a person is found to have caused an accident by his or her texting, that person should, at least, be eligible for massive criminal and civil penalties.

    July 29, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  20. KP

    There's nothing like getting rear-ended by a moron who thinks he has to text his girl friend in the middle of heavy traffic.

    July 29, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  21. Dennis

    Unfortunately, the government has to save us from ourselves. It would seem to be common sense that driving and texting are a bad combination. Sadly, comon sense seems to be lacking in a lot of people.

    July 29, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  22. Shari, NY

    What about New York? Cell phone conversations, text messaging, DWI, putting on make-up, eating and drinking with one hand while steering with the other, etc., are causing many accidents. If you think teenagers are bad behind the wheels, check out the seniorswho drive erratically while going a mere 10 mph, or indicating to go left but ultimately bear right. In addition to all of this this there much discourtesy and road rage. Albany based senators: Are you taking stock?????

    July 29, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  23. Zero.

    Flying and Riding and Walking...

    July 29, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  24. Obama Victim

    Don't yall just love the new FEDERALISM being lead by Obama and the democrats??

    Once upon a time STATES had rights, made laws for citizens, and provided limited benefit programs.

    NOW – everyone must bow eastward to the Almighty Obama and the Federal Government!!

    July 29, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  25. Steve, Columbia SC

    And tell me what took our Congress soooooo long to realize texting or doing anything on a digital device while driving a car is dangerous?

    And why in the world did it take a study to convince them?

    July 29, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
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