The American Trucking Associations has voiced its support for the objectives of legislation (S. 1536) that would establish federal funding penalties for states that fail to make texting while driving illegal. The bill was introduced July 29 by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.).
The bill requires all states to within two years of the bill’s passage ban writing, sending or reading text message using a hand-held mobile telephone or other portable electronic communication device. States that do not comply with the legislation risk losing 25 percent of their annual federal highway funding.
ATA’s safety agenda recommends that drivers and motor carriers consider policies to minimize or eliminate driver distraction caused by using electronic devices while operating any type of motor vehicle. However, ATA said it will work to ensure that the bill does not inadvertently require states to outlaw the use of truck cab fleet management systems that provide limited but necessary cargo-related information to professional drivers.
Text messaging while driving is already illegal in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, Tennessee, Utah and the District of Columbia. In these states, police can stop a driver for texting while driving and ticket the driver. Text messaging while driving is also illegal in Maryland, Virginia, Washington and Louisiana but police cannot ticket a driver in these states for the offense unless the driver has been stopped for another traffic offense. Six additional states have legislation in place that will prohibit text messaging while driving by January of 2010.