Eyes on the road: senators detail text-message bill

| 7/31/2009

U.S. senators seeking to ban text messaging and e-mailing while driving say their bill would apply to personal vehicles, trucks, buses and light rail.

The ban would only apply to drivers and would not apply if a vehicle is stopped, according to Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, and co-sponsors Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-LA, and Sen. Kay Hagan, D-NC.

The senators announced the bill just one day after the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute released a study showing that drivers who text are 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision.

“With this new legislation, drivers will finally be held responsible for dangerous behavior that puts the public at risk,” Schumer said in a statement.

States that don’t comply within two years would risk losing 25 percent of their annual federal funding for highways.

Before the bill can become law, the full Senate would have to approve it, the House would have to approve it, and the president would have to sign it.

The Senate co-sponsors highlighted several high-profile crashes involving drivers who had been text messaging, including a bus crash caught on tape this year in San Antonio and a Sept. 2008 train crash in Los Angeles that killed 25 people and injured 135.

Nationwide Insurance determined in a 2008 study that 20 percent of Americans send messages while behind the wheel.

Fourteen states and Washington, DC, currently ban drivers from texting.

– By David Tanner, staff writer