Following recent reports on the dangers of drivers being preoccupied by their cell phones, the U.S. Senate is now considering legislation to ban text messaging while driving. This could even be a step toward a total of ban of using cell phones while driving.
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Here are the big reports that recently came to light:
- Drivers who text are 23 times more likely to have a collision, based on a Virginia University study
- New revelation that in 2002-2003, the U.S. transportation agency recommended a total ban of cell phones while driving (except in an emergency); the report concluded little difference between the safety of hand-held and hands-free usage of cell phones in its study
- A Car and Driver study showed that texting-and-driving is far more dangerous than drinking-and-driving
There are already 14 U.S. states (plus Washington, D.C.) that ban drivers from text messaging. The new legislation being proposed in the U.S. Senate would push for all states to pass a ban or lose 25% of their federal highway money. This is the same way drunk driving laws work.
New York Senator Charles Schumer said, "When drivers have their eyes on their cell phones instead of the road, the results can be dangerous and even deadly... The federal government ought to pass a law banning this dangerous and growing practice to protect the millions of Americans on our nation's roads. It is a matter of public safety."
The Washington Post reports that the ban in D.C. has made a significant impact:
"Safety experts say the District's five-year-old driver-cellphone ban offers a model of how to make such laws effective. A 2006 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showed a significant decline in phone use by drivers in the District because of the ban. It fell 50 percent initially and remained at that level a year later."
We would expect the cellular carriers to lobby hard against these kinds of laws, however, even they are starting to see the inevitability of such legislation and are falling in line.
Verizon Wireless vice president Steven Zipperstein, said, "We support federal legislation to ban texting and e-mailing while driving. This approach is a logical extension of our previous breaks with other wireless companies to support state-wide legislation banning texting and e-mailing while driving. We applaud Senator Schumer and the Senate sponsors for their leadership."
The video below is a CNBC report that talks about the Car and Driver study:
And here is my CBS colleague Katie Couric weighing in on this topic:
Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.