The feds are making a major push to outlaw cell phone use by drivers nationwide in an effort to reduce to risk of car accidents in Tuscaloosa and elsewhere caused by drivers distracted by cell phones and text messaging behind the wheel.
Our Tuscaloosa car accidents lawyers are frequently called to represent victims who are injured or killed in an accident caused by a driver who was not paying attention; cell phones continue to be a leading cause of distraction.
Carolyn McCarthy, a Democratic Congresswoman from New York, has introduced the Safe Drivers Act of 2011 in Congress, which would make using a cell phone illegal while behind the wheel, except in cases of emergency.
Alabama is one of a dwindling number of states with a distracted driving law aimed only at young drivers under the age of 18, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. A few states — including Ohio and Florida — still have no laws at all. Some 38 states have passed some form of a text messaging ban. The jigsaw of laws — combined with some resistance to act at all — has Congress pushing a nationwide solution to the issue.
Distracted driving has become a serious health threat that claims more than 5,000 lives a year. The number of serious and fatal crashes blamed on distracted driving has increased, even as the overall number of traffic fatalities has declined in recent years, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Costs are on the rise as well. Automotive Industry Today just reported that the cost of auto accidents has surpassed $41 billion a year, counting costs for medical care and lost wages.
“Driving while making a phone call, texting or using apps can be as dangerous as driving drunk, and much more common,” Rep. McCarthy said. “With some basic commonsense rules that are already in place in some parts of the country, we can reduce injuries and save lives in America.”
While studies suggest hands-free devices are also dangerous as they take a driver’s mind off the road, this law specifically targets the manual distraction inherent in holding or using a cell phone; hands-free devices and those integrated into a vehicle would be exempt. The proposed law would require the DOT to conduct a study focused on the impact of distracted driving, particularly among young, inexperienced motorists. The study would be due to Congress in two years and states would then have two years to comply with any new laws passed as a result of the effort.
States that fail to comply will risk losing 25 percent of federal highway funding dollars; the government used the same strategy to bring states into compliance with the .08 blood-alcohol limit. Having a nationwide law would also help with enforcement efforts; the feds just announced a pilot enforcement program in Connecticut and New York has shown promise when it comes to getting drivers to put down their cell phones. Both states prohibit cell phone use behind the wheel and an enforcement blitz dubbed “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” was modeled after the nationwide seat-belt enforcement campaign “Click it or Ticket.”
Safe Drivers Act of 2011 Introduced in Congress, by Matt Keegan, Auto Trends Magazine