BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Zeroing in on distracted driving. The nation’s transportation chief calls it an epidemic that needs to be stopped. And it’s not just texting he’s worried about. It’s all cell phone use behind the wheel.

Kai Jackson has more on this new nationwide crackdown.

Federal officials say distracted driving is a problem that’s claiming lives, yet one that can easily be solved.

Safety advocates say American drivers are distracted behind the wheel, and handheld phones are a big part of the problem.

Advocates say this unsafe behavior is causing deadly accidents and injuries.

“Americans have gotten into very dangerous behaviors with their cell phones and their texting devices, to think they can use them behind the wheel of a car,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.

To combat the problem, the Feds now want states without distracted driving laws to pass them. They plan to work with the auto industry to reduce in-vehicle distractions, and they want new drivers to get more education.

“I got here and I’m trying to see what’s going on. That’s a distraction there,” David Wilder of West Baltimore said.

Maryland has some of the toughest mobile phone laws in country. Drivers can no longer use handheld phones in the car. It includes no handheld calling, no receiving calls, no sending text messages and no reading text messages.

Safety experts say distracted driving is more than talking or texting on a mobile phone. It also includes using your radio, having conversations with passengers, even eating and drinking.

“I seen one guy had his laptop up on the steering wheel playing with that,” truck driver Charles Woods said.

Eleven states do not have any distracted driving laws.

Eventually, LaHood wants Congress to pass a nationwide ban on drivers using mobile phones.


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