Three House Democrats have introduced legislation to encourage states to pass laws that ban cell phone use while driving.

The bill offered by Reps. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelGOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia Saudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Five changes Democrats will seek at Pentagon if they win power MORE (N.Y.), Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchDems damp down hopes for climate change agenda House conservatives want ethics probe into Dems' handling of Kavanaugh allegations Reporter tops lawmakers to win charity spelling bee MORE (Fla.) and Mark DeSaulnierMark James DeSaulnierZinke on California fires: 'This is not a debate about climate change' Zinke takes forestry fight to fire-ravaged California Trump tweets on wildfires show ignorance on climate, California and politics MORE (Calif.) would provide federal grant funding to states with laws that ban drivers from texting or talking on cell phones while driving. Those funds could be used for public education campaigns, traffic signs to discourage distracted driving and law enforcement costs.

Only 14 states currently ban using handheld cell phones while driving. The lawmakers argued that more needs to be done to discourage Americans from taking their eyes off the road to answer texts, emails or phone calls.


"These days, there are so many personal communication devices that command our attention, every second of every day. As we become more and more accustomed to the immediate feedback they provide, it becomes very easy to fall into the trap of texting at dangerous or otherwise inappropriate times," Engel said in a statement.

"When drivers look down at their phones to send a text or check Facebook, they put themselves and everyone around them in danger," Deutch added. "Congress has a responsibility to prevent more needless tragedies by incentivizing states to enact tougher laws that we know can make our roads safer and ultimately prevent more needless tragedies."

States eligible for the grants must have a law that establishes a minimum penalty for a first violation of its distracted driving ban, and increased penalties for further violations.

The legislation would further require the Department of Transportation to study factors involved in distracted driving, such as individual driver behavior and car technology. It would also direct the Federal Communications Commission to report to Congress on the authority the agency has to help reduce cell phone use while driving.

According to the Department of Transportation, 3,154 people died in car crashes involving distracted drivers in 2013, while another 424,000 people were injured. And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that young drivers in their twenties account for 27 percent of distracted drivers in fatal crashes.