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Klobuchar seeks to ban texting while driving

Surrounded by safe driving advocates, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar announced her support recently for federal legislation that would establish a nationwide ban on "texting while driving."

"No text message is so urgent or important that it's worth dying for," Klobuchar said. "Texting while driving is not safe. We need drivers to stay alert and keep their eyes on the road, both for their own safety and the safety of all of us."

Klobuchar is cosponsoring the "Avoiding Life-Endangering and Reckless Texting by Drivers Act" (ALERT Drivers Act).

It would require states to pass laws that ban the writing, reading and sending of text or email messages while operating a motor vehicle. The legislation would give states two years to comply or otherwise risk losing 25 percent of their federal highway funding.

Klobuchar serves on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which will consider the legislation before it goes to the full Senate.

Since August 1, 2008, Minnesota has had a state law banning 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 have no laws that restrict 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.

Klobuchar also noted a national survey this year by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which found that 87 percent of the public considers texting while driving to be a "very serious threat" to their safety. The public fears drivers who are texting nearly as much as they fear drivers who are drunk.

"About 20 to 30 percent of all drivers admit to texting," said Klobuchar. "For younger drivers, the rate is much higher, 50 percent or more. Texting while driving is a very serious public safety concern. It's a national problem, and it deserves a national response."

Among those joining Klobuchar for the announcement were troopers from the Minnesota State Patrol and students from the Anoka High School chapter of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions).

Also participating were Cheri Marti, director, Office of Traffic Safety, Minnesota Department of Public Safety; Sharon Gehrman Driscoll and Jon Cummings, Minnesotans for Safe Driving; Lynne Goughler, MADD-Minnesota (Mothers Against Drunk Driving); and Nancy Clark, president-Great Plains Region for Verizon Wireless, the only major wireless service provider to endorse a national ban on texting while driving.