WASHINGTON - Ford Motor Company said it endorses a senate bill to ban handheld text messaging while driving. The bill would not prohibit people from using Ford's Sync system or other systems to send hands-free messages.

A Senate version, sponsored by Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., would withhold highway funding to states that didn't adopt a ban.

"The most complete and most recent research shows that activity that draws drivers' eyes away from the road for an extended period while driving, such as text messaging, substantially increases the risk of accidents. Ford believes hands-free, voice-activated technology substantially reduces that risk by allowing drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road," Sue Cischke, group vice president for Ford Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering said in a statement.

"Ford supports a ban on hand-held text messaging while driving - and we endorse the legislation introduced by Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) that would encourage a more rapid transition to hands-free and voice-activated technologies. This legislative approach addresses a nationwide problem we can all agree is necessary to improve safety."

The Department of Transportation is planning to hold a summit on distracted driving at the end of the month.