Current State of Distracted Driving Legislation

Across the nation, state lawmakers have been crafting and passing legislation aimed at reducing one of the most easily prevented road hazards: distracted driving. Reflecting a growing national concern with distracted driving, some members of Congress have proposed a nationwide ban on handheld cellphone use while driving.

Patchwork of Laws

The nation's patchwork of distracted driving laws can make it difficult for travelers to know exactly what is and isn't allowed as they cross state lines.

Though no state bans all uses of cellphones by all drivers, eight states do prohibit all drivers from using handheld cellphones while driving: Washington, Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut and California.

So far, 30 states, including Illinois, ban text messaging while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. Eleven states have adopted their text bans this year.

Eight more states ban text messaging by novice drivers and two states ban text messaging by school bus drivers.

Federal Ban Coming?

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has been an outspoken advocate of efforts to cut down distracted driving and the motor vehicle accidents, injuries and fatalities that can result. In January, LaHood announced federal guidelines prohibiting texting by drivers of large commercial vehicles such as big rigs and buses.

LaHood supports legislation such as the Distracted Driving Prevention Act, proposed last year by Rep. Eliot Engel of New York. The bill would ban not only texting, but also handheld cellphone use while behind the wheel.

The bill went to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and stalled there. It's unclear if Engle, or Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who proposed the Senate version, can revive it.

In July, the Congressional Budget Office issued a report stating that a federal law providing states with distracted driving safety grants would not add to the federal deficit, effectively removing one argument from the arsenal of cellphone industry lobbyists and others opposing the proposed law.

The Right Time

It's unknown whether the Distracted Driver Prevention Act can be revived; if not, observers think it's possible that a less restrictive law might take its place, banning texting rather than all handheld cellphone use.

Regardless of whether it's against the law in every state or not, use of cellphones for texting or talking while driving can be enormously dangerous for drivers, their passengers and everyone else on the road.

If you or a member of your family has been injured by a distracted driver, contact an Illinois personal injury lawyer to assess the facts of your situation and advise you of your legal options.

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