Texting while driving is a major distractionEnlarge Photo
Talking and texting while driving has been proven to be dangerous, but it's still common on America's highways.
Those acts will become illegal if one U.S. Representative can push her bill through Congress.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) has introduced the Safe Drivers Act of 2011 in the U.S. House. The bill would ban hand-held phone use while driving by federal law, superseding laws that some states and municipalities have passed.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), as of June 2011 nine states and the District of Columbia prohibit drivers from holding cell phones to make calls while driving and 34 states ban texting.
Figures released by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) show that at least 5,400 people died as a result of distracted driving in 2009.
The proposed legislation directs the DOT to issue a nationwide standard that bans all drivers from holding mobile devices, except in certain emergencies. The legislation permits the use of hands-free devices, but it also calls for the DOT to study whether any talking on the phone while driving poses a danger.
This is the so-called “cognitive distraction” that several research studies have already shown to be a concern far beyond hand-held device use. Studies at Virginia Tech and elsewhere show that drivers using phones are four times as likely to cause a crash as other drivers.
Rep. McCarthy's bill has yet to be scheduled for a vote.[Detroit Free Press, DOT, IIHS]