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United States Senate Pushing Forward on Distracted Driving Bill

Car accidents caused by distracted drivers have risen dramatically over the past several years, mostly among young drivers. However, all age groups have been caught participating in unsafe driving practices. This sudden increase has pushed about half the states in the country to adopt laws regulating cell phone use behind the wheel.

Maryland is one of the most recent states to pass legislation, signing handheld restrictions into law on May 20.

The severity and extent of handheld restrictions have not been uniform across the country. For example, Maryland's cell phone ban is relatively weak compared to California's. Still, one has to believe that the important first step is recognition.

Even states that have not yet passed legislation likely have bills making the rounds at this very moment. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has spoken on the issue many times and cited handheld restrictions as one of his major priorities.

Recently, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee approved a bill that might give those states still on the fence a good reason to beef up cell phone restrictions. The bill, which is headed for a vote by all Senate members, would set aside $94 million in available grants for states that crack down on distracted driving.

The idea itself isn't quite new and seems a play on a previous suggestion by Senator Specter, who proposed that states that did not pass distracted driving laws be penalized by the withholding of funds. The new bill softens some of Specter's bite by encouraging state action via positive encouragement, rather than negative consequence.

Still, you can't fault the Senator for trying. With distracted driving more or less undisputed as a major cause of car accidents across the country, it seems clear that something decisive must be done. The sooner, the better.

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