Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-16) re-introduced two bills today aimed at reducing deaths and injuries due to distracted or impaired driving. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and to mark this occasion Rep. Engel re-introduced the Distracted Driving Prevention Act and the Drunk Driving Repeat Offender Prevention Act.
"Technology has enhanced our lives and propelled us into a new world. However, as with most anything, there is a flip side, and technology has created many problems. It is a given that when driving, your attention should be solely on the road. However, too many people allow themselves to be distracted while driving, and the results are often deadly. We should not have to pass laws telling people to keep their eyes on the road, but the list of those who lost their lives due to texting or drunk driving gets longer every year," said Rep. Engel, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
He added, "Last year, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood called distracted driving a deadly epidemic. He is absolutely correct. However, unlike viral epidemics, this one requires no medication to cure. All it requires is behavioral changes."
Distracted Driving Prevention Act (HR 1664) would withhold funds for states which lack distracted driving laws. It would withhold one percent in FY2016, three percent in FY2017, and five percent each year thereafter. State laws would have to meet the following requirements:
*Texting while driving would be a violation of state law;
*Provides an increased civil penalty especially if any ensuing accident was caused by the use of such device;
*Prohibits handheld cell phone use.
"In one way, technology has produced an obstacle for safety. In another, it has provided a solution. I am also re-introducing my Drunk Driving Repeat Offender Prevention Act (HR 1665) which mandates that anyone convicted of DWI, must have an interlock device installed on their vehicle, needed to operate their vehicle," said Rep. Engel.
The law would enforce this through the states by withholding federal transportation funding. In the Surface Transportation Bill passed in 2012, a provision was included to require interlock devices. However, Rep. Engel's legislation goes a bit further by withholding funds, rather than transferring them to a safety account. In January 2012, the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety recommended requiring ignition interlock devices for all first-time drunk driving offenders.
"I call on my colleagues to pass these bills and send to the Senate for passage. There are victims of distracted driving accidents in all 50 states, and the suffering is truly non-partisan," added Rep. Engel.