Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Safety

Four Senators Propose Pushing States to Ban Texting While Driving

Four Democratic senators introduced legislation today that would offer states a choice: ban texting and e-mailing while driving within two years or lose 25 percent of their federal highway money.

menendez.jpgSen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)(Photo: PatersonOnline)

The bill, sponsored by Robert Menendez (NJ), Charles Schumer (NY), Mary Landrieu (LA), and Kay Hagan (NC), comes as the New York Times grabs national attention with a series on the road safety risks posed by technological devices.

Texting behind the wheel is already illegal in 14 states, but today's bill would use congressional road aid to spur a nationwide ban. The legislation would not apply to stopped cars or passengers in moving vehicles, but it would affect transit operators, such as the Boston trolley conductor who crashed while texting his girlfriend in May, injuring 49 people.

Threatening to withhold highway money proved mostly successful in pushing states to ban drinking and driving, but some states continued to allow open alcohol containers in moving cars years after Congress took action in its 1998 transportation bill.

The texting-while-driving bill would give states two years to pass their own bans after the U.S. DOT sets minimum penalties for violators. States that can't meet that time frame could retroactively recover the lost road aid once texting limits are approved.

Presumably, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) would take a closer look at signing onto the bill depending on his likely opponent in the upcoming November election. One of Bayh's potential GOP challengers, Dan Dumezich, caused a stir yesterday by correcting a media report on his candidacy with a quip on his Facebook page.

"That's what happens when I text while driving!" Dumezich wrote.

Menendez's statement on the bill follows after the jump:

iPhones, Sidekicks and Blackberries are ingenious,indispensible devices. But while they make our lives so much easier, they makedriving that much harder. Texting while driving should beillegal on every road, every railway, in every state. Anything we can do at everylevel of government to raise awareness and stop texting while driving will savelives -- particularly the lives of those new drivers who are accustomed totexting anywhere, anytime. They are at risk, and they put our families atrisk.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Tuesday’s Headlines Are Running Hard

More political news: Today's top stories delve into Kamala Harris' record on climate change and Republicans' plans for the Trump administration if he returns to power.

July 23, 2024

State DOTs Could Fuel a Resurgence in Intercity Bus Travel

Private equity firms are killing off intercity bus companies. Will public agencies fill in the gaps?

July 23, 2024

GOP’s ‘Project 2025’ is ‘Based on a Lot of ignorance’

What does Transportation for America's Beth Osborne think of the transportation portion of the Heritage Foundation's playbook for a Trump presidency?

July 23, 2024

What a Surprise! Hochul’s Congestion Pricing Pause Helps Rich Suburban Drivers

Gov. Hochul's "little guys" certainly have big wallets. Meanwhile, the rest of us suffer with declining subway service and buses that are slower than walking. Thanks, Kathy.

July 22, 2024

Philadelphia Demands More Than ‘Flex-Post’ Protected Bike Lanes After Motorist Kills Cyclist

Pediatric oncologist Barbara Friedes was struck while biking on a "protected" path. Now, advocates are arguing that flex posts should be replaced with something far better.

July 22, 2024
See all posts