Great Hang Up: Automakers backing national handheld phone ban

3:53 PM, Jul 20, 2011   |    comments
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Detroit, Michigan -- Chrysler is the second U.S. automaker to back a nationwide ban on the use of handheld phones and other mobile devices while driving.

Chrysler joined Ford today in endorsing the Safe Drivers Act of 2011, introduced by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y. The bill would order the federal government to wrestle all the states into banning handheld use of phones, except in emergencies.

The stick: States that don't go along could lose up to a quarter of their federal transportation funding. Similar leverage has been used to get states in line for such things as raising their drinking ages to a uniform 21 and lowering speed limits to 55.

Chrysler, in a statement, said the "legislation addresses the fact that a driver's primary responsibility is to be in control of their vehicle" and that "texting while driving clearly interferes with that responsibility."

"Chrysler has a strong history of addressing distracted driving, and we are proactively designing our vehicles and educating our customers on the importance of staying focused on the road," the company said.

Last week, Ford backed the bill, calling it "a practical, common-sense approach to a national problem," and Verizon Wireless has also thrown its support behind it. General Motors has declined to take a position on the legislation.

Like Ford, Chrysler markets optional in-car systems for hands-free calling and other functions, including, in some cases, texting, and might benefit from a handheld ban. Some distracted-driving activists have argued that hands-free use is just as distracting and have advocated limits on that, as well.

 

Aaron Kessler of the Detroit Free Press and Fred Meier of USA Today