NY Dem lawmaker says Congress should pass bill banning cellphone use in cars

The National Transportation Safety Board is calling for every state to pass laws barring all cellphone use in cars, which would create a nationwide ban, but the sponsor of a bill that would do that in the House said Congress should create the provision. 

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) said she supports the NTSBs goal of a nationwide ban, but she said the most most effective way to achieve it would be Congress passing her Safe Drivers Act of 2011 (H.R. 2333). The bill bans manual use of hand-held mobile devices while cars are in operation, even if they are idling, but it would not extend to voice-recognition devices.

McCarthy said a congressional bill would ensure the rules of the road were the same in every state.  

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“We can’t wait for multiple states to act, and we can’t afford to have a patchwork of laws where some Americans are more protected than others,” McCarthy said in a statement after the NTSB released its recommendation this week.  

“The simplest, safest solution would be a single national standard, like we have for blood alcohol content,” she continued. “Texting while driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving, and [is] getting more and more common every day. All Americans deserve to be safe no matter where they’re traveling.”

NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said Tuesday as she announced the NTSB’s recommendation that the agency normally makes highway safety recommendations to states, not Congress.

“States are the ones that can pass laws, they can enforce those laws and in many cases, they are responsible for educational campaigns,” she said.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has noted that the number of states with distracted-driving laws had increased from eight to more than 30 in his time in office.