Hutchison: Distracted Driving Issues Are Best Handled by States

October 28, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), the Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, said today during a Commerce Committee hearing that the problem of distracted driving is best addressed by individual states.  Senator Hutchison recently joined Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) to cosponsor legislation (S. 1938) to offer incentive grants to states that enact laws to combat distracted driving.  It would impose no new mandates and would be funded through existing programs, spending no additional taxpayer dollars.


“Distracted driving on our nation’s roads is a growing threat and contributed to nearly 9,000 Texas crashes in 2008,” said Senator Hutchison.  “But this issue is best handled by individual states, which better understand the unique solutions needed to combat this disturbing trend in transportation, and help make our roads safer.  That is why I am joining with Chairman Rockefeller, Senator Thune and others in introducing legislation that takes this very approach and respects states’ rights. While some have pushed for specific mandates on the states, I disagree.  States should not be threatened with the loss of federal highway funds that have been paid for by their drivers.  We can better accomplish these goals through incentives to individual states rather than heavy handed mandates from the federal government.”

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports that in 2008, almost 6,000 people died from crashes that resulted from distracted driving.  This accounted for 16% of all traffic fatalities last year, up from 12% of all fatalities in 2007.  A number of states are already examining this issue and have enacted laws to regulate the use of cell phones and the sending of text messages.  In Texas, drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited by law from using a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle.  Texas also prohibits the use of a wireless communication device within a school crossing zone, with an exception for the use of a hands free device.  Additionally, Texas prohibits school bus drivers from using cell phones or text messaging while driving a bus with passengers younger than 18. 

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