WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY4) has proposed federal legislation that would create a single national standard that prohibits the use of a handheld mobile device, such as a cell phone, while driving.
Called the Safe Drivers Act of 2011, it would direct the Secretary of Transportation to establish minimum regulations that ban use of mobile handheld devices on a public road. This would apply whether the driver is operating a moving vehicle or idling it. Exclusions to this rule would include voice-operated devices integrated into the vehicle and voice-operated GPS systems. The penalty for a state failing to comply with the Department of Transportation's minimum standards within two years of the bill’s enactment would result in a 25-percent withholding of that state’s federal highway transportation funding.
The bill would also require the DOT to conduct a study on distracted driving with a focus on “cognitive distraction” and its effect on young or inexperienced drivers. The DOT must report the findings to the U.S. Congress within two years and come up with suggestions for revising the minimum set of distracted driving standards and penalties that all states must comply with.
Currently, only eight states prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. These states include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington.
Thirteen states have no laws that address voice calls made with a handheld device. They include Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Ten states have no laws that address the issue of texting while driving. Those states include Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and South Dakota.
Eight states have no laws limiting the use of cell phones for calling or texting while driving. They include Florida, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and South Dakota.