September 11, 2009
Legislation proposing a nationwide ban on handheld texting while driving has received a boost from the Ford Motor Company. In supporting the legislation introduced by Senator Charles Schumer and Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, both of New York, Ford becomes the first major auto maker to publicly favor such a ban.
As the dangers of texting while driving become more evident with mounting incidents of accidents, states are increasingly moving to ban the practice. To date, 17 states have moved to ban texting while driving. The proposed federal legislation calls for 25% cuts in federal highway financing for states that decline to go along with a texting ban. Senator Schumer hailed the automaker's support. "Ford deserves credit for stepping up as the first car company to endorse a ban on this dangerous habit," said Schumer in a statement. "We are gathering a critical mass of support for this bill, which will give us the momentum we need to get it passed." In addition to a rash of accidents -- some involving fatalities -- momentum for a ban was fueled earlier this summer by a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study, which found the greatest crash risk occurs when drivers are texting on a keypad. The risk, according to the study, jumps by 23 times when a texting driver is compared with a driver who isn't texting. Verizon Wireless also supports a federal ban. "We support federal legislation to ban texting and e-mailing while driving," said Steven Zipperstein, Verizon Wireless VP, in a July statement. Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile stopped short of endorsing the proposed legislation. On Thursday, Ford also spoke in favor of "hands-free, voice-activated technology (that) substantially reduces that risk by allowing drivers o keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road," in a statement by Susan Cischke, the firm's group VP for sustainability, environment and safety engineering. Ford's stance could also be viewed as an endorsement of its in-car Sync system, which reads text messages and operates cell phones with simple voice commands. Cischke said the proposed legislation "would encourage a more rapid transition to hands-free and voice activated technologies," according to media reports.
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