Federal Official Calls for National Cellphone Ban for Drivers

If U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has his way, the nation will join Georgia in banning texting while driving for all drivers. In fact, LaHood wants an even more extensive law, calling for Congress to pass a national ban on both talking and texting on cellphones while driving. The law would address what LaHood calls a "national epidemic" of distracted driving, which causes thousands of serious auto accidents every year.

LaHood, whose office has studied the issue of distracted driving for several years, proposed the ban while flanked by people, including children in wheelchairs, who were injured in distracted driving accidents. He said such accidents were "100 percent preventable."

The ban would apply to drivers on any road in the country. LaHood believes more people would stop cellphone use while driving if they were subject to tickets. While distractions of any kind are hazardous to motorists, LaHood zeroed in on cellphones because they have become so commonplace, and people have become so complacent about texting and talking while driving. A similar crackdown in the 1980s helped reduce drunk driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 3,000 people died in auto accidents caused by distracted driving in 2011, many related to cellphone use. According to an NHTSA study, using a cellphone or electronic device affects one's driving ability to the same extent as a blood alcohol content of 0.08, the legal limit for drunk driving.

State Distracted Driving Laws

Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have already passed laws against distracted driving involving cellphones or electronic devices. Some have enacted total bans on the use of handheld phones while driving, while others only ban texting while driving. All permit the use of hands-free devices in cars.

Georgia

Georgia's distracted driving laws took effect in July 2010 and resulted in 500 convictions by the end of 2011. The law effectively bans texting while driving, including reading texts as well as writing them. In addition, drivers under age 18 cannot engage in any "wireless communications" such as cellphone conversations and emailing, including reading emails.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident involving a distracted driver, contact an experienced Georgia personal injury attorney to discuss any legal claims you may have.