Sample legislation unveiled to combat distracted driving

American state law would enable law enforcement officers power to stop a vehicle and issue a citation.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has unveiled the latest step in the campaign against distracted driving.

Sample legislation is to be used as a starting point for states crafting new laws to prohibit texting while behind the wheel,
The sample state law, prepared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a cross-section of safety and industry organisations, would authorise law enforcement officers to stop a vehicle and issue a citation to drivers who are texting while driving.

The sample state law is patterned on the Executive Order issued by President Obama on October 1, 2009, directing federal employees not to engage in text messaging while driving government-owned vehicles or with government-owned equipment, extended to federal employees on December 30, 2009.

In January, LaHood announced federal guidance to prohibit texting by drivers of commercial vehicles such as large trucks and buses, or face civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750.

NHTSA research shows that nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, and more than half a million were injured. 19 States and the District of Columbia currently have texting laws covering all drivers.

LaHood said: "Texting while driving, like talking on cell phones while driving, is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening practice."

"This language, which we created with a variety of safety organisations, is another powerful tool in our arsenal to help the states combat this serious threat."

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