[2.7 MB, 12 pgs.]
Summer 2010 | Vol. 12 | No. 4
Congressional Committees Report Out Two Important Safety Bills
S. 3039 and H.R. 4890, the Research of Alcohol Detection Systems for Stopping Alcohol-Related Fatalities Everywhere Act of 2010 (ROADS SAFE Act) were introduced in the Senate and House earlier this spring. The Act would fund a collaborative research effort on in-vehicle technology to prevent alcohol-impaired driving. The bill would authorize $12 million a year from FY 2011 to 2015 to support this research effort. In effect, the ROADS SAFE bill would provide stable and reliable funding to continue the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (www.dadss.org) effort.
Last month, the House Energy and Commerce Committee reported out the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The ROADS SAFE Act was offered and accepted as an amendment to the former piece of legislation. However, funding was reduced to $8 million a year. On June 9, the Senate Commerce Committee reported out its version of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The ROADS SAFE Act was offered and accepted as an amendment in this committee as well; however, the Committee chose to fund the measure at $12 million a year. The differences in funding will have to be negotiated in conference committee. GHSA supported the ROADS SAFE Act and was very pleased that it was accepted by both authorizing committees.
Last year, Sen. Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, introduced S. 1938, the Distracted Driving Prevention Act of 2009.The bill would create a new incentive grant program for states that enact legislation prohibiting texting, banning the use of any cell phone for drivers under 18 and requiring all drivers to use hands-free cell phone devices. In addition, the Act would require that the state legislation must:
- Be primary;
- Create a minimum fine for firsttime offenders with increasingly stringent penalties for repeat offenders;
- Create increased civil and criminal penalties for drivers who text and cause a crash; and
- Test the subject of distracted driving on the state licensing exam.
The bill creates exceptions for calling emergency services, for use by emergency personnel, for vehicles parked outside the legal roadway and for activation, deactivation or initializing the function of a cell phone, and cell phone use by commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers as allowed by federal law.
If states enact the requisite legislation before July 1, they would qualify for a grant in that fiscal year. States could use half the funds for education and paid media, traffic signs educating the public about the dangers of distracted driving, or for enforcement. The other half would be for any 402-eligible project.
The Act earmarks all unobligated Section 406 funds for the incentives in FY 2010 and 2011. An additional $7.5 million per year in FY 2010 and 2011 Section 406 funds is earmarked for a NHTSA national distracted driving campaign patterned after the two existing national mobilizations—Click It or Ticket and Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.
The bill also requires that, in FY 2011, to be eligible for Section 408 funds, states must:
- Have a space on their crash form for the collection of information about cell phone or texting use;
- Require law enforcement officials to investigate whether a cell phone or texting device was in use by a driver involved in a crash; and
- Incorporate the information collected in the state crash database.
NHTSA has interpreted this language to mean that states must have the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria (MMUCC) distracted driving data element on their Police Accident Report (PAR) forms. To date, 34 states comply, although several are working to incorporate the element in their forms.
A companion to the Rockefeller bill was introduced in the House earlier this spring. No action has been taken yet on the House bill.
To review the legislation, go to www.congress.gov and enter the bill numbers in the search box.