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Support grows for reintroduced legislation aimed at curbing distracted driving

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Washington — The American Trucking Associations is backing recently reintroduced bipartisan legislation intended to help states reduce distracted driving.

In a letter dated March 26 and addressed to leaders of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, ATA Vice President of Safety Policy Dan Horvath calls the Safe to Drive Act (S. 195 and H.R. 762) “a tremendous opportunity to focus greater resources and attention to accidents that our professional drivers cannot easily anticipate: those caused by distracted passenger motorists.”

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), along with Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Steve Cohen (D-TN), in February reintroduced the legislation, which would mandate the Department of Transportation allocate up to 25% of available grant funding toward national priority safety program grants to states that pass legislation banning driver use of mobile devices. Funds would be used to enforce such laws and for distracted driving education programs.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that in 2019, 3,142 fatalities occurred as a result of traffic incidents involving distracted driving. In the letter, Horvath cites additional NHTSA data showing this figure marked a 9.9% increase from the previous year.

“In commercial trucking, we require drivers to keep their eyes on the road ahead at all times – and we should expect the same vigilance of every motorist on the road,” he writes. “Sadly, convenient access to social media and streaming services has only increased the number of potential road hazards, leading to increases in the quantity and severity of distracted driving incidents.”

In an ATA press release, commercial motor vehicle driver Steve Fields voiced his dismay over the various distracted driving behaviors he has witnessed.

“I have seen everything from texting to putting makeup on, to even reading a newspaper while driving,” he said. “Taking your eyes off of the road for just two seconds compromises highway safety. Anything we can do to reduce distraction is a good thing.”

In a separate release, Klobuchar said the legislation “will help ensure states have the resources to create safer roads for all and, ultimately, save lives.”

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