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Bills improve vehicle safety, call for nationwide ban on texting while driving

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The Senate Commerce Committee passed legislation Wednesday co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar that's designed to make American roads safer by improving vehicle safety standards and encouraging bans on texting while driving.

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The Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010 would improve vehicle safety standards, make safety information more accessible to consumers, and provide the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with the necessary resources and authority to address safety defects in the future, Klobuchar said. The Distracted Driving Prevention Act of 2009 urges states to ban texting while driving.

"It's time to change the rules of the road, put consumers in the driver's seat, and make safety our final destination," Klobuchar said. "The action by the committee has put us one step closer to modernizing our nation's vehicle safety standards and making auto companies responsible for the safety of their vehicles. We also voted to ensure that drivers adopt safe practices while on the road. Texting while driving isn't safe, and no text message is so urgent or important that it's worth dying for."

Klobuchar convened a Teen Driving Safety Forum last Tuesday in Oakdale, MN, to underscore the importance of driving safety and the dangers of distracted driving.

In addition to these traffic safety bills, the Committee also passed the Restore Online Shoppers' Confidence Act. Klobuchar is an original cosponsor of this bill that would end deceptive online sales practices, including aggressive tactics that enroll online consumers in costly services without their consent.

"As a former prosecutor, I know how critical it is that our laws keep up with technology," Klobuchar said. "Companies should be competing on an even playing field based on the quality of their products and services, not on how well they can dupe and deceive consumers. By rooting out these 'bad actors,' we can boost e-commerce and restore consumer confidence in online shopping."

BACKGROUND

The Distracted Driving Prevention Act of 2009 encourages states to pass laws like an August 2008 law in Minnesota banning texting while driving. The Minnesota law bans anyone from texting on a cell phone or other personal electronic device while operating a motor vehicle, whether the vehicle is in motion or part of traffic. However, 32 states do not have any laws restricting texting while driving - including Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota.

Klobuchar pointed to a recent national research study which found that drivers are 23 times more likely to get into an accident when texting while driving. The researchers observed that, in the moments before a crash or near-crash, drivers typically spent nearly five seconds looking at their electronic devices. At normal highway speeds, that is enough time to cover more than the full length of a football field.

The Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010 includes a provision that Klobuchar pushed for preventing NHTSA employees from taking jobs in the auto industry for at least three years after they leave the agency. At a March 2, 2010, Commerce Committee hearing on reports of uncontrolled acceleration in Toyota vehicles, Klobuchar highlighted the cozy relationship between the industry and NHTSA and called on Administration officials to answer questions about whether they had all the necessary tools to ensure passenger safety.

The bill would require the Secretary of the Treasury to establish new safety standards on vehicle- stopping distance, brake-override controls, pedal placement, keyless- and push-button ignitions, and event-data recorders. It also creates an incentive program for NHTSA to attract more engineers and technical staff.

The Restore Online Shoppers' Confidence Act prohibits Internet retailers and other commercial Web sites from transferring consumers' billing information to post-transaction third-party sellers. It requires companies that use "negative options" to meet certain minimum disclosure requirements that ensure consumers do not pay recurring fees for goods and services they did not intend to purchase.

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