By: Bob Von Sternberg
Star Tribune

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is throwing her support behind a bill working its way through the Senate that would ban text messaging while driving nationwide.

Klobuchar plans to hold a press conference Saturday to announce her backing; also taking part will be troopers from the Minnesota State Patrol and students from the Anoka High School Chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).

Last year, Minnesota law banned anyone from texting on a cell phone or other personal electronic device while operating a motor vehicle, whether or not the vehicle is moving. But according to Klobuchar's office, 32 states have no laws that restrict texting while driving, including Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota.

Under the U.S. Senate bill, introduced in July, states would have two years to outlaw the sending of text and e-mail messages by drivers or lose 25 percent of their highway money each year until the money was depleted.

The bill's authors were responding to recent studies that have begun to quantify the risks of texting while driving. One study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that truck drivers face a 23 times greater risk of crash or near crash when texting than when not doing so.

Research from the University of Utah found an eightfold greater risk of crashing while texting. By comparison, Utah researchers showed that drivers using a cellphone face a four times greater risk of crashing. That's roughly equal to someone with a 0.08 blood alcohol level.