Committee Approves Distracted Driving Legislation Sponsored by Rockefeller and Hutchison

Bill Imposes No New Mandates, Instead Offers Grants to States that Elect to Enact Distracted Driving Laws

June 9, 2010

Hutchison PortraitWASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee today approved legislation (S. 1938), sponsored by Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), to offer incentive grants to states that enact laws to combat distracted driving.  Hutchison noted that the bill would impose no new mandates and would be funded through existing programs, spending no additional taxpayer dollars. 

“All would agree that driving while distracted poses serious safety risks not only to the drivers, but to passengers, pedestrians, and anyone sharing the road,” said Senator Hutchison.   “Unfortunately, studies have shown that while people are aware of the safety risks associated with using cell phones and texting devices while driving, they still engage in this behavior. A number of states are already addressing this problem and have enacted laws to regulate motorists’ use of cell phones and text messaging.   I think it is most appropriate for the states to handle this issue and devise laws that best meet their particular needs.  Our legislation does not threaten states with lost highway funds if they elect not to enact a distracted driving law.” 

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.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that, in 2008, almost 6,000 people died from crashes that resulted from distracted driving.  This accounted for 16 percent of all traffic fatalities that year. In addition, 515,000 individuals were injured (22 percent of total injuries) in crashes involving distracted driving   According to a recent study by the cell phone industry association, text messages sent nationwide last year increased to over 3 million per minute.  The bill is cosponsored by Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), John Thune (R-S.D.), David Vitter (R-La.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.),  Mark Warner (D-Va.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Robert Casey (D-Penn.).

                                                          #  #  #