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U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday that would make states ban texting while driving or face reductions in federal highway funds.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and it would be patterned around how states are required to ban driving while intoxicated. Under the bill, states would have to ban texting or sending e-mail while operating a moving vehicle or face a 25% cut in annual federal highway funding. Schumer was joined by Senate Democrats Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.
"When drivers have their eyes on their cell phones instead of the road, the results can be dangerous and even deadly," said Schumer while introducing the legislation.
The legislation is seen as a direct response to a recent study released by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute which said texting while driving increased truck drivers' risk of a crash more than 23 times. The institute said the practice is far more dangerous than making calls while operating a vehicle because the user is not watching the road, and it recommended a nationwide ban on text messaging while driving.
Fourteen states already have a ban on sending SMS messages while operating a moving vehicle, but the ban can be difficult to enforce. The Governors Highway Safety Association has gone on record against the ban due to difficulties with enforcement, but it is not denying the dangers of texting while driving.
Texting continues to be a major revenue center for the wireless carriers, as the CTIA said the number of SMS messages has increased tenfold over the last three years.
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