Today, major automakers expressed support for banning drivers from text messaging
and using hand-held mobile phones while driving.
The Alliance of Auto Manufacturers
, a trade association of 11 car and light truck manufacturers including BMW Group, Chrysler and Ford Motor Company, said in a statement that writing or reading text messages affects a driver's ability to safely operate a vehicle.
"Clearly, using a hand-held device to call or text while driving is a safety risk," said Alliance President and CEO Dave McCurdy. "The alliance supports a ban on hand-held text messaging and calling while driving to accelerate the transition to more advanced, safer ways to manage many common potential distractions."
An estimated 20 percent of drivers are texting while behind the wheel, according to a Nationwide Insurance study last year. Among young people, between the ages of 18 to 24, that number skyrockets to 66 percent.
So far, 14 states including Louisiana, Minnesota, and New Jersey, have passed laws banning texting while driving. Fewer states have made cell phone use illegal while driving, a practice automakers do not oppose in all circumstances.
A Senate bill, sponsored by Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., would withhold 25 percent of highway funding from those states that fail to adopt the texting while driving ban.
Next week, the Distracted Drivers Summit
will address the dangers of text-messaging and other distractions behind the wheel. Senior transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement representatives, members of Congress and academics will convene in Washington to discuss ways to combat distracted driving. The meeting will also explore legislative and regulatory approaches.
Following the summit, I expect to have a list of concrete steps to announce, said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The bottom line is we need to put an end to unsafe cell phone use, typing on BlackBerrys and other activities that distract drivers.