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CBO says federal Distracted Driving law would not add to deficit

A new report issued by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concludes that a law that would provide states with grants for distracted driving safety programs would not contribute to the federal deficit. The bill, S. 1938, the “Distracted Driving Prevention Act,” proposed by West Virginia Senator John Rockefeller, would authorize the Secretary of Transportation (via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) to give grants to states that “enact laws that prohibit, with certain exceptions, and establish fines for texting and/or handheld cellphone use while driving.” At least half of the grant would have to be spent on education about the danger of driving while talking on the phone and texting and enforcement of the ban. The rest of the grant would be spent on other traffic safety improvement projects.

The report states unambiguously that the “CBO estimates that enacting the legislation would have no significant impact on the federal budget.” The reason gets fairly technical but boils down to the fact that the grant money would come out of funds that have already been budgeted (“previously appropriated contract authority”). This report could be good news for the bill. It has now been reported out of committee with the recommendation that it be taken up by the Senate as a whole. It is up the the majority party (Democrats) as to when this might happen.

In other distracted driving news, Delaware has joined the ranks of states with distracted driving laws. Governor of Delaware Jack Markell signed a law on July 6 making Delaware the eighth state to ban hand-held mobile phone use while driving. The law becomes effective on January 2, 2011. “We had too many people who were driving while distracted,” Markell said. “These new laws should be a deterrent. It should make people think twice.” While 29 other states prohibit texting and driving, Delaware joins a smaller group that prohibits all phone use behind the wheel. The ban also applies to electronic games, PDAs and laptops.

Read the League’s report to learn more about Distracted Driving.

UPDATE: Secretary LaHood provides his own distracted driving update.

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