Murkowski Co-Sponsors Bill to Crack Down on Distracted Driving

Senator Joins Bipartisan Legislation to Fund and Empower State Authorities Against New Tech Threat

Senator Lisa Murkowski is introducing the bipartisan Improving Driver Safety Act to crack down on distracted driving on Alaska’s roadways and nationwide, by making millions in existing federal funds available to the state’s efforts to address this safety risk.  The bill, also co-sponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), John Hoeven (R-ND) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) would ensure that states can access the nearly $16 million in government education and enforcement funds that went unused last year. 

“Alaska has the harshest penalties for distracted driving in the nation, because we understand the life and death stakes at play when drivers take their eyes off the road, and every injury or fatality is 100% preventable,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski.  “Driving in Alaska requires absolute attention, all of the time – you wouldn’t shut your eyes for five seconds while driving along the Seward Highway, up the Parks Highway or even in stop and go downtown traffic; a brief glance down to text message leaves you entirely exposed to anything dangerous that could happen within hundreds of feet ahead.  This bill will empower the state of Alaska to access existing funds to educate drivers and enforce these life-saving laws.”

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP–21) created a distracted driving grant program that authorized incentive grants to states that enact and enforce laws prohibiting distracted driving. However, in FY14, only one state received funding through the distracted driving grant program. The Improving Driver Safety Act would adjust the requirements to ensure more states that are taking steps to curb distracted driving can qualify to receive funds.

According to recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of all U.S. high school students admitted to texting or emailing while driving, and every day nine people are killed and more than 1,100 people are injured due to accidents involving distracted driving.