Senior Dems Release New Distracted Driving Bill as LaHood Testifies

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) today unveiled his plan to take an incentive-based approach to distracted driving as Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood testified on the Obama administration's campaign to end the use of electronic devices behind the wheel.

threatlevel_rockefeller_200x_3.jpgSenate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) (Photo: Wired)
Rockefeller's bill, co-sponsored by three Republicans as well as Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) -- who also backed a more punitive distracted driving bill introduced in July -- would set up a grant program for states that pass laws barring drivers from texting and requiring the use of a hands-free device for cell phone users.

In order to qualify for grants, states would also have to ban cell phone use entirely by drivers under age 18. In contrast to Rockefeller's approach, the July Senate bill would encourage states to act or risk losing a share of their federal highway funds.

As Rockefeller pointed out at the start of today's hearing, his legislation would not require any new spending:

The new grant program and advertising campaign would be paid for by redirecting unused surpluses from the current seat belt safety program.  So: no new costs. We should not have to mourn the tragic loss of any more precious lives needlessly cut short. It is time to bring a new sense of safety and shared responsibility to our roads.

You can check out a PDF summary of Rockefeller's bill right here.