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

Senators push nationwide ban on texting while driving

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/29/art.traffic0729.gi.jpg caption="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. Zero.

    And no texing from "Power Chairs"...

    July 29, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  2. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    Open bottle, pour out shampoo, close bottle...
    Apply shampoo to hair, rub in well, rinse repeat, ONCE (or more if needed)... Even the obvious requires direction.
    I am stupefied to find that we need a LAW that says one should not text while driving.
    Besides, if you're texting, how can you talk on the phone, drink your soda and eat your burger?

    July 29, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  3. Vic of New York

    The only way any of that will ever work is to have a code transmitter in every car that disables the phone while the car is in "drive".

    July 29, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  4. Tyran

    How do you practically enforce texting while driving? If you ask me, you just gave "stupid" acting cops another reason to pull over black men.

    July 29, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  5. Sarah, Northern Colorado

    Considering how in debt our country is right now, you'd think there wouldn't be enough "free" money to put together such a worthless study. I mean, c'mon, how dense does one have to be to think texting while driving is the least safe out of all distracting activities surrounding the cell phone?

    This is just as dumb as the many studies regarding overeating making us fat.

    July 29, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  6. Na

    I think the woman in the Kroger's store in Virginia sounds like a fat neeg.

    July 29, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  7. Oblio

    I absolutely support this ban.

    July 29, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  8. Justin

    "The proposed legislation would prohibit any driver from sending text or e-mail messages while driving a vehicle"

    What about going online? I'm on facebook whenever I drive.

    July 29, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  9. Dave

    This should be passed immediately. Texting (and talking on the cell phone) is dangerous and causes thousands of accidents every year. I have no problem if someone wants to kill themselves doing this type of idiocy but many times innocent people get mangled or killed by this stupid behavior. Its time to put a stop to this.

    July 29, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
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