Lawmakers tackle distracted driving, texting

| 10/20/2009

Hearings on distracted driving are scheduled to begin next week as Congress considers legislation that would ban text messaging and e-mailing while driving.

The Senate Commerce Committee has dubbed its hearing “Combating Distracted Driving: Managing Behavioral and Technological Risks.” It is scheduled for the afternoon of Wednesday, Oct. 28.

Scheduled to testify are U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who presided over a recent summit on distracted driving in Washington, DC, and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski.

On Thursday, Oct. 29, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit will tackle the topic of “Addressing the Problem of Distracted Driving.” A hearing agenda has not yet been published.

Federal lawmakers are considering two pieces of legislation, S1536 in the Senate and HR3535 in the House, which would prohibit texting or e-mailing while driving. Click here to look up the bills by number and to track their status.

OOIDA position on texting
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports a ban on texting while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle, but the Association is also calling upon government entities to take the opportunity to educate the motoring public about driving around large trucks.

OOIDA recently issued a statement encouraging law enforcement agencies to fully enforce existing laws on inattentive or negligent driving.

North American effort
Eighteen U.S. states currently have laws that prohibit text messaging while behind the wheel, and legislation is in the works in several others. Restrictions in some states include a ban on phone use unless the driver is using hands-free technology.

The Canadian province of Ontario begins enforcing a new law on phone use starting Monday, Oct. 26. The enforcement campaign begins with a three-month education period that ends Feb. 1, 2010. After that, drivers convicted of texting, typing, dialing or e-mailing with a hand-held device can face $500 fines.

Ontario is the fourth province to ban texting for drivers. Quebec, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia previously enacted bans. Other provinces are in varying stages of development with legislation.

– By David Tanner, staff writer