Feds to increase pressure on states, including Arizona, to reduce distracted driving car accidents

As the U.S. Department of Transportation announces its second annual National Distracted Driving Summit, set for Washington in September, it could be just a matter of time before the feds move to combat distracted driving accidents by withholding federal highway dollars from states that fail to enact text messaging bans.

As our Phoenix car accident lawyers reported recently on our Phoenix Injury Lawyer Blog, Arizona is one of just a handful of states that have done little to combat distracted driving accidents caused by drivers using cell phones and/or text messaging. Only school bus drivers are regulated in Arizona.
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-Eight states ban the use of hand-held cell phones altogether.

-28 states forbid new drivers from using cell phones while behind the wheel.

-30 state prohibit drivers from text messaging — 11 of those states have enacted laws this year.

Last year’s distracted driving summit culminated with an announcement by President Obama that all 4 million government employees would be forbidden from text messaging while driving federal vehicles. Since then, the government has launched an all-out assault, debuting sample legislation it would like states to use when adopting laws, launching a distracted driving website, and making other efforts aimed at reducing the risk of distracted driving.

“Working together, we can put an end to the thousands of needless deaths and injuries caused by distracted driving each year,” said Secretary LaHood. “By getting the best minds together, I believe we can figure out how to get people to put down their phones and pay attention to the road.”

In dealing with past nationwide traffic safety issues — including drunk driving, speeding and seat belt use — the government has used the carrot-and-stick approach. First it asks nicely, then it threatens to keep a state’s highway dollars.

True, Arizona had planned to spend $1.25 million to build bridges for endangered squirrels using federal highway dollars. The project was expected to save the lives of five squirrels a year, though the Arizona Department of Transportation ultimately canceled the project, according to the Eastern Arizona Courier.

But make no mistake: federal highway dollars are used on everything from potholes to sobriety checkpoints. Such a move would definitely grab the state’s attention.

If you have been injured in a traffic accident, contact the Phoenix injury lawyers at Abels & Annes for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call (602) 819-5191 today.