Fed Might Offer Incentives For States' Crackdown on Distracted Driving

June 26, 2012

When Congress votes this week on the $109 billion transportation bill that has already passed the Senate, some lawmakers expect to fight to keep $78 million in “legislative candy” out of it.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times, the showdown stems over the controversial Senate bill that would use “scarce” gas tax funds in an attempt to “coax” states into stepping up efforts to cut down on distracted driving.

In essence, the bill proposed by the Senate would provide “incentives” to states if they:

  • Outlaw texting behind the wheel
  • Prohibit cellphone use of any kind by drivers under the age of 18
  • Take other actions to curb distracted driving

The bill would also require states to spend a large portion of the funds on anti-distracted driving programs. These include such measures as additional enforcement programs that target distracted drivers, and advertising awareness programs on the dangers of distracted driving.

Also in the Senate bill are state incentives to provide for alcohol ignition interlock devices for convicted DUI drivers, as well as establishing graduated driver licensing programs (GDLs) that restrict teen driving privileges. The House GOP effort, however, led by Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) is focused on removing the distracted driving incentives. Black noted that 39 states are “already doing something related to distracted driving.”

Underscoring the urgency of this week’s vote is the fact that the government’s authority to collect gasoline taxes and fund projects expires June 30.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), some 3,092 people were killed in 2010 as a result of distracted driving, while another 416,000 were injured in crashes of motor vehicles involving a distracted driver.

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