WASHINGTON – Democratic lawmakers called for states to ban texting while driving or face cuts in highway funds, citing the need to reduce driver distraction and potential highway deaths and injuries.
“When drivers have their eyes on their cell phones instead of the road, the results can be dangerous and even deadly,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who unveiled the legislation Wednesday with Democrats Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.
Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have passed laws making texting while driving illegal.
Some critics have questioned whether the laws could be enforced, whether there is enough data to warrant such bans, or if reckless driving statutes already cover texting behind the wheel.
The proposal follows a series of studies showing the dangers of operating handheld electronic devices while driving.
In a study released earlier this week, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that when drivers of heavy trucks texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting. Dialing a cell phone and using or reaching for an electronic device increased risk of collision about six times in cars and trucks.
The legislation would require states to ban texting or e-mailing while operating a moving vehicle or lose 25 percent of their annual federal highway funding. It would be patterned after the way Congress required states to adopt a national drunken driving ban.