Americans back driving-while-texting ban

Americans overwhelmingly support a ban on text messaging while driving and half believe it should carry punishment as severe as drunk driving, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll released on Monday.

Ninety-seven percent of the 829 adults surveyed said sending a text message while driving should be prohibited, a finding which the Times said showed an unusual level of agreement for any topic.

One percent said it should be legal while two percent had no opinion.

Fifty percent said texting while driving should be punished as severely as drunk driving. Forty-three percent said less severely while two percent said more severely.

Eighty percent of those surveyed said they supported a ban on talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving, up from 69 percent in a 2001 ABC News poll. Seventeen percent said it should be legal.

The Times said those surveyed were more open to hands-free cellphone use.

Seventy percent said using a hands-free cellphone should be legal while 27 percent said that practice too should be prohibited.

Sixty-six percent said using a hands-free cellphone while driving was more safe than using a hand-held while 28 percent said the risk was the same.

The poll was conducted between October 5 and 8 and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

US lawmakers have introduced legislation in Congress that would ban driving-while-texting.

The bill would require the Department of Transportation to issue guidelines for reasonable laws to curb the practice, and then mandate all 50 states to ban texting while driving no more than two years after that.

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