New Bill in Review: Offers Rewards to Ban Distracted Driving

Many drivers realize that talking or texting on their cell phone is dangerous while driving, yet with over 80 million cell phones in use in the U.S., it has become far too common to drive while distracted.

The Risks

A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration analyzed a large study group to determine how common and destructive distracted driving has become. The study estimated that drivers on their cell phones caused 955 deaths and 240,000 accidents in 2002. Drivers talking or texting were found to be as likely to crash their vehicle as someone with a Blood Alcohol Content of .08.

A study by the University of South Carolina proved that both listening and talking on the phone inhibits simple visual tasks. This suggests that even hands-free phone devices are dangerous while driving.

The New Federal Bill

On June 9 2010, a Senate committee passed a new bill that, if passed by the full Senate, will reward states for tough laws on cell phone use while driving. The bill would take surpluses from a different highway bill and create a $94 million program to distribute grants to states that meet the requirements.

For a state to receive a grant under the new bill, they must ban the use of hand-held devices and texting for all drivers. The states must also require primary enforcement of these laws, meaning a driver can be pulled over and cited by a law enforcement officer for driving while distracted.

If a state receives a grant, 50 percent of the funds must be used towards educating the public about the dangers of distracted driving.

The new bill also would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue regulations for commercial and bus drivers. It would prohibit auto-makers from installing entertainment screens, like DVD players, in view of the driver.

Current Laws on Distracted Driving

Currently, using a hand-held device while driving is banned for all drivers in eight states and in Washington D.C. Texting while driving is banned by 30 states and D.C. No states have a complete ban on all cell phone use, including hands-free devices. However, 28 states have banned all cell phone use for novice drivers and 18 states have banned all use for school bus drivers.