Texting Behind the Wheel: Action Taken in Distracted Driving Debate

"It's not enough to support the concept of a ban, we need a ban that comes with consequences for the states that don't act," Schumer told the audience.

While many state legislators at the summit Thursday applauded the federal effort for a nationwide ban on texting while driving, some worried it may set back some of their efforts on the local level.

"If you say the words federal mandate in Arizona, they will reach for their gun," joked Rep. Steve Farley, Democratic state senator of Arizona, stating his concern about the government getting involved.

Others suggested the best role for the federal government may be in regulating research and providing incentives to the private sector to quickly develop technology designed to mitigate distracted driving.

Victims of Distracted Driving Crashes Call for Action

While the summit was composed of various transportation agencies, safety experts and technology gurus, arguably the most compelling moments came during testimony from those personally effected by distracted driving.

Greg Zaffke of Chicago lost his mother in a distracted driving accident in May when she was hit from behind by a vehicle traveling at 50 mph. The driver was painting her nails at the time of the accident. In a symbol of his outrage at the incident and to help raise awareness against distracted driving, Zaffke began painting his nails black on one hand.

"Distracted drivers destroy lives. Think and drive or people die," Zaffke said through emotion during a press conference at the summit Wednesday. "I'll forever have nightmares about the last moments of my mother's life."

Zaffke stressed the need for stricter punishment for offenders of distracted driving.

"Many of them are traffic tickets for someone's life," he protested. "That needs to be changed."

Dave and Trudy Teater lost their 12-year old son Joe in 2004, to a driver who was talking on a cellphone and are now activists for enacting a ban on texting while behind the wheel.

"He was just the life blood and spark plug of our family," DaveTeater who is now a spokesperson for the National Safety Council, said. "It's our hope that we can prevent others from doing the same thing."

Changing the Law One State at a Time

To date 18 states and the District of Columbia have taken action to prohibit texting for all drivers. http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html Maryland is the latest state to join the bandwagon. Beginning today, people who text while driving, will be fined as much as $500. While the law prohibits sending messages, many are concerned that it does not address other forms of distracted driving, such as reading, eating or even using Facebook.

Due in part to Shaw's efforts to spread the message about the danger of distracted driving, Utah has the toughest texting-while-driving law on the books. A driver in Utah can receive up to 15 years in prison if he or she causes injury or death while texting and driving.

Some state legislatures have responded to the growing concern by banning hand-held cell phones, while others have chosen to single out a specific demographic, such as commercial drivers, or teenagers, and implement restrictions.

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