Four Senators Propose Pushing States to Ban Texting While Driving

Four Democratic senators introduced legislation today that would
offer states a choice: ban texting and e-mailing while driving within
two years or lose 25 percent of their federal highway money.

menendez.jpgSen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)(Photo: PatersonOnline)

The bill, sponsored by
Robert Menendez (NJ), Charles Schumer (NY), Mary Landrieu (LA), and Kay
Hagan (NC), comes as the New York Times grabs national attention with a series on the road safety risks posed by technological devices.

behind the wheel is already illegal in 14 states, but today’s bill
would use congressional road aid to spur a nationwide ban. The
legislation would not apply to stopped cars or passengers in moving
vehicles, but it would affect transit operators, such as the Boston
trolley conductor who crashed while texting his girlfriend in May, injuring 49 people.

Threatening to withhold highway money proved mostly successful in pushing states to ban drinking and driving, but some states continued to allow open alcohol containers in moving cars years after Congress took action in its 1998 transportation bill.

texting-while-driving bill would give states two years to pass their
own bans after the U.S. DOT sets minimum penalties for violators.
States that can’t meet that time frame could retroactively recover the
lost road aid once texting limits are approved.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) would take a closer look at signing onto the bill
depending on his likely opponent in the upcoming November election. One
of Bayh’s potential GOP challengers, Dan Dumezich, caused a stir yesterday by correcting a media report on his candidacy with a quip on his Facebook page.

"That’s what happens when I text while driving!" Dumezich wrote.

Menendez’s statement on the bill follows after the jump:

iPhones, Sidekicks and Blackberries are ingenious,
indispensible devices. But while they make our lives so much easier, they make
driving that much harder. Texting while driving should be
illegal on every road, every railway, in every state. Anything we can do at every
level of government to raise awareness and stop texting while driving will save
lives — particularly the lives of those new drivers who are accustomed to
texting anywhere, anytime. They are at risk, and they put our families at



25 Senators Demand Robust Transit Funding

In a letter to Finance Committee leaders [PDF], 25 senators today urged adequate funding for mass transit in the next transportation authorization bill. The letter notes that public transportation systems find themselves in a budgetary crisis just as more and more people, driven by $4/gallon gas, are seeking out transportation options. During the worst economic […]

Senators Propose $4 Billion for Transit-Oriented Development Grants

Making good on a vow first reported in Streetsblog Capitol Hill, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) and three colleagues today offered a bill authorizing $4 billion in grants to help states and cities pursue transit-oriented development, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and other green transport projects. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) (Photo: […]

Following ‘Cash for Clunkers’ with ‘Riches for Rail’

(Photo: Washington Post) Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a senior member of the Senate Banking Committee, began his hearing on transit today by displaying the above cartoon by Pulitzer prize-winner Tom Toles. The senator’s message parallels Toles’: In a world where the auto industry can get $2 billion more in one week, what’s to be done about […]

LaHood to Convene Texting-While-Driving Summit

Ray LaHood will announce today that his Department of Transportation plans to convene a summit next month for safety officials, lawmakers, academics, and law enforcement representatives to examine the risks of texting while driving. (Photo: GT Channel) The summit comes on the heels of a new congressional proposal to prod states into bans on texting […]