The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has developed a legal template that will help states develop legislation banning the act of texting behind the wheel. The sample law is modeled after the Executive Order issued by President Obama in October of last year that prohibited federal employees from texting while driving.
The sample law represents the latest steps taken by the federal government to reduce the number of traffic accidents caused by distracted drivers. According to NHTSA data, in 2008 approximately 6,000 people were killed and more than 500,000 people were injured in traffic accidents involving distracted drivers.
The nation’s youngest and most inexperienced drivers cause the most distracted driving accidents. Research shows that the large majority of teenage drivers admit to texting while driving. The problem is fast becoming an epidemic that has legislators from coast to coast springing into action.
“Texting while driving, like talking on cell phones while driving, is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening practice,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.
“This language, which we created with a variety of safety organizations, is another powerful tool in our arsenal to help the states combat this serious threat,” LaHood added.
LaHood has become the nation’s leading opponent of texting and driving and considers it to be one of the most serious threats to the American public’s safety today.
“It makes me crazy when I see people in Washington with a phone up to their ear and a can of soda on their lap thinking that they can do these things. They just simply can’t,” LaHood told U.S. News and World Report.
NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said that his agency is “determined to help the states eradicate the dangerous practice of texting while driving. “
Only 19 states and the District of Columbia have comprehensive laws prohibiting texting behind the wheel. LaHood hopes that the NHTSA’s sample law will expedite the passing of such legislation everywhere.
LaHood became an avid proponent of anti-texting laws last year after meeting with families who lost love ones in crashes caused by driver texting. He has since introduced anti-texting rules for commercial truckers and bus drivers and established a new group called FocusDriven. Modeled after mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), FocusDriven aims to make distracted driving facts a part of driver’s ed.
View the NHTSA’s sample law here.