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Senate Democrats introduced a bill on Wednesday that would ban texting on a cell phone or other personal electronic device while driving. If passed, the bill would force states to enact laws against texting while driving, or risk losing federal highway funds.
"iPhones, Sidekicks and Blackberries are ingenious, indispensable devices," Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement. "But while they make our lives so much easier, they make driving that much harder."
The bill would apply to anyone operating a personal car, truck, bus and most other mass transit systems, including light rail (but not to texting when the car is stopped nor to passengers.) Currently, 14 states and the District of Columbia ban texting while driving, and 11 states have a modified ban.
"Texting while driving should be illegal on every road, every railway, in every state," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a press release. "Anything we can do at every level of government to raise awareness and stop texting while driving will save lives."
The Avoiding Life-Endangering and Reckless Texting by Drivers Act ("ALERT Drivers" Act) is sponsored by Sens. Schumer, Menendez, Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.).
If the bill is signed into law, states will have two years to pass compliant bans or risk losing up to 25 percent of their annual federal highway funding, as enforced by the Department of Transportation. States that comply after the two-year deadline can retroactively recover lost highway funds.
The ALERT Drivers Act came a day after a study by Virginia Tech researchers revealed that drivers are 23 times more likely to get into an accident when texting on their phones. Another study, published in June by Car and Driver magazine, indicated that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving intoxicated.
Researching this story was the first time I heard that D.C. already has a law against texting. If you want to know if your state has already banned texting and driving, the Governors Highway Safety Association has a handy state-by-state guide.
As a D.C. resident who often types these posts on my Blackberry while driving, I'm not sure how to give up email, BlackBerry Messenger, Google Talk, Google Maps, UberTwitter or Facebook while in the car.
Admittedly, I have several rear-ender accidents on my driving record, but what am I supposed to do while driving -- pay attention? Nah.
Follow Emily Miller on Twitter (only when she's not driving of course!)
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