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.

  • It’s not where your hands are, it’s where your head’s at. A lot of research, going back several years, has shown that this hands-free concept doesn’t reduce driver distraction.

    So all this effort – if it becomes law – for a very partial solution. Indeed, how will it be enforced? It’s a gift to cell phone operators, hands-free kit makers and probably a company which uses child labor to make iPhone holders which fit into the flower vase holder in VW New Beetles.

    C’mon, kids! We can do better than this, even in these inherently unsafe auto-machines. Obama, I suggest you give your NP to the person who invents a system which prevents a driver from using a mobile phone in their own car when it’s moving, but allows passengers to use theirs, and both in the taxi, train, metro, streetcar or bus, or just 911 in the car and nothing else: You’re driving or being driven after all, so make use of it and go visit the person you want to talk to.

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