Schumer's Text Ban Blackmail Gathers Steam

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

The New York Times is running an Op Ed supporting Senator Charles Schumer’s anti-texting legislation. The Alert Driver’s Act of 2009 would compel states to enact anti-texting laws—or face the loss of 25 percent of their federally-supplied highway funding. The Gray Lady starts as it means to finish: misrepresenting the truth. “A leading road safety group, the Governors Highway Safety Association, has reversed field and announced its support for state laws banning drivers from sending and receiving text messages.” No, yes and kinda. GHSA Executive Director Barbara Hasha told TTAC that the organization hadn’t reversed itself. Before now, they simply “weren’t ready to endorse” the bill. And then they read the study cited by the NYT: a July 2009 Virginia Tech Transportation Institute report claiming truckers are “23 times more likely to cause a crash or near-crash than a nontexting trucker.” Why truckers? Because the stats are 10 times higher than those for car drivers. (How many truckers text vs. car drivers?) And while the GHSA is pro anti-texting laws, they are NOT in favor of Schumer’s threat to remove federal funding.

“We feel it’s common sense,” Harsha said. “The states will do it [enact the anti-texting laws] without being forced to do so.”

Hang on; why have a new law in the first place? Why not prosecute motorists who text under existing dangerous driving laws?

Harsha admits that every state in the U.S. has laws prohibiting driving while texting. Not good enough. “Passing a law raises awareness,” she insists.

I pointed out that enacting redundant laws isn’t likely to endear state governors to voters who’ve recently shown a certain, shall we say “reticence” towards governmental expansion. Perhaps a public information campaign would be a better solution?

Harsha was undeterred. “We need new laws to remind people—especially young people—about the dangers of texting while driving . . . Public information campaigns have limited impact. The best way to change behavior is through enforcement.”

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  • Banger Banger on Sep 16, 2009
    G650G: "The residents of these states paid the feds tax money and it’s not right to leverage those funds in an attempt to circumvent the 10th amendment. They did this with the drinking age 20 years ago and got away with it." No, it's not right to do away with the federal highway funds the states are due. See my suggestion above to impose a minimum federal law, which can be beefed up at the states' discretion. No need to bring the federal fuel tax revenues into the equation. And by the way, try running for Congress on the platform that you're going to "reinstate our 10th Amendment Rights to sovereignty" in your state. Tell voters you're going to seek to abolish the federal minimum drinking age requirement because you think states ought to be able to let their minors drink hard liquor if that's what their voters choose. Sure, the liquor lobby will probably give you some nice campaign contributions, but good luck getting voters--most of them parents of said minors-- on-board with that. Pragmatism is a great thing. To me, it's actually a benefit when a pragmatic federal government steps in and imposes national regulation when (1) there is presence of a substantial public safety, health or welfare issue, and (2) there is an absence of relatively standardized regulation among the states to curb that issue. Sure, maybe someday all states will have a patchwork of generally similar laws and regulations about texting while driving (TWD), but how long will it take to get there? How many more civilians would have to die in traffic collisions caused by texting before we reached that point?

  • Banger Banger on Sep 16, 2009
    Robstar: "on 290-E here, west of Chicagoland, people merge IN FROM THE LEFT, so the fastest traffic hangs on the right…' As Hank Hill would say, "That's just asinine!" That situation would drive me insane on the daily commute. Glad the worst I have to put up with is a non-limited access 65 mph divided highway with the occasional dangerous crossroad.

  • MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.
  • Wjtinfwb Jeez... I've got 3 Ford's and have been a defender due to my overall good experiences but this is getting hard to defend. Thinking the product durability testing that used to take months to rack up 100k miles or more is being replaced with computer simulations that just aren't causing these real-world issues to pop up. More time at the proving ground please...
  • Wjtinfwb Looks like Mazda put more effort into sprucing up a moribund product than Chevy did with the soon to be euthanized '24 Camaro.
  • Wjtinfwb I've seen worse on the highways around Atlanta, usually with a refrigerator or washer wedged into the trunk and secured with recycled twine...
  • Wjtinfwb Surprising EB Flex hasn't weighed in yet on it being the subject of a recall...