According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA"), approximately 18 percent of all drivers killed in car and other motor vehicle accidents across the United States last year - about 5,500 drivers - died because they were distracted by cell phones, portable computers, eating, personal grooming or other activities. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood terms that an epidemic and, in strong statements delivered last week in Washington, D.C., to hundreds of legislators, safety advocates and business leaders during the second annual Distracted Driving Summit, he called for further restrictions and changed behavior by automobile manufacturers. "We've seen news stories about carmakers adding technology in vehicles that lets drivers update Facebook, surf the Web or do any other number of things instead of driving safely," LaHood said. "But facts are facts. Features that pull drivers' hands and eyes and attention away from the road are distractions, period." We discussed in a prior blog post New Jersey's tough stance toward talking on cell phones and texting while driving. As we noted, the state was one of the first to ban talking on a hand-held phone while driving, and it was the second state to ban texting while driving. Certain New Jersey legislators think that current law does not go far enough. One of them, Sen. Dick Codey, has submitted a bill that would significantly up the ante on penalties attaching to cell phone use and texting. Specifically, the legislation calls for increasing the fine for a second offense concerning either activity from $100 to $250, with offenses beyond that getting hit by a $500 penalty. Under Codey's bill, a third offense would require a mandatory court appearance and a 60-day license suspension. Codey's bill is now being debated in the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. Related Resource:"Cell Phones Linked to 1 Out of 5 Car Deaths" September 26, 2010