Klobuchar Calls for Ban on Texting While Driving

Thursday, October 29th, 2009 at 5:11 am

Washington, D.C. – At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing today focusing on the risks of distracted driving, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar called for legislation to ban texting while driving, a dangerous practice that has claimed the lives of thousands of motorists nationwide.

“Texting while driving is not safe.  We need drivers to stay alert and keep their eyes on the road, both for their own safety and the safety of all of us,” said Klobuchar.  “Not too long ago, most people viewed drunk driving as just a traffic offense – not really a crime.  As a prosecutor, I joined with law enforcement officials and safe driving advocates to change the law to make our roads safer.  We need to do the same for texting and distracted driving.”

Klobuchar, the former Hennepin County Attorney, made repeat drunk driving and road rage offenses one of her top prosecution and legislative priorities while serving as a prosecutor.  She is a cosponsor of two pieces of legislation to ban texting while driving.

Klobuchar also questioned Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about the recent case of distracted Northwest Airlines pilots who accidentally flew 150 miles past the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. Specifically, she asked LaHood about ways to combat distraction in the cockpit and urged LaHood to consider updating the rules governing pilot communications in the cockpit.

“This was distracted driving at 37,000 feet. Passengers should be confident that the pilots flying their plane are 100% focused on flying — nothing less.” said Klobuchar.

Klobuchar is a cosponsor of both the Distracted Driving Prevention Act of 2009, which was referred to the Senate Commerce Committee, and the Avoiding Life-Endangering and Reckless Texting by Drivers Act” (ALERT Drivers Act), which was referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  Senator Klobuchar serves on both Committees. Both bills encourage states to pass “texting while driving” bans.

Last month, Klobuchar was a featured speaker at the Distracted Drivers Summit in Washington, D.C.   The Summit, hosted by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, included national transportation officials, safety advocates and representatives from the law enforcement community.

Since August 1, 2008, Minnesota has had a state law banning anyone from texting on a cell phone or other personal electronic device while operating a motor vehicle, whether the vehicle is in motion or part of traffic.  However, 32 states have no laws that restrict texting while driving – including Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota.

A recent national research study found that drivers are 23 times more likely to get into an accident when texting while driving.  The researchers observed that, in the moments before a crash or near-crash, drivers typically spent nearly five seconds looking at their electronic devices.  At normal highway speeds, that is enough time to cover more than the full length of a football field.

Also, a national survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 87 percent of the public considers texting while driving to be a “very serious threat” to their safety.  The public fears drivers who are texting nearly as much as they fear drivers who are drunk.

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