Rarely are Democrats and Republicans on the same side of an issue in Texas. Finally, both parties agree on something and yet they still have not succeeded in making it into law. For the fifth legislative session, lawmakers will introduce a bill to ban texting while driving. The bill has enough bipartisan support to pass, but not enough support to override the governor’s likely veto.
The Texas Tribune has been covering the issue in its eight-part State of Mind series. In one segment, the video highlights the tragic story of Jennifer Smith whose mom was killed by a driver talking on her cell phone. Ms. Smith is spearheading efforts to ban texting while driving nationwide. As she put it, “no phone call, no text message, nothing, is worth a life.”
Making Texas a Primary Enforcement State
Already, Texas bans texting
while driving by drivers who are younger than 18 and in school zones.
Lawmakers want to expand this ban to prohibit texting and cell phone use by all drivers.
A Texas A&M University researcher analyzed 11 years worth of
data in 48 states and found that up to 19 lives were spared each year in states with primary enforcement laws on the books, which authorizes law enforcement officers to stop motorists for texting while driving
without any other traffic offense.
Widespread Support for Anti-Texting Legislation in Texas
A bill sponsored by House Representative Tom Craddick passed in
2011 but was vetoed by Governor Rick Perry. Gov. Perry criticized the
law for “micromanaging the behavior of adults.”
Although Rep. Craddick plans to introduce the bill again this
session, Texas is no better off on this topic under Governor Greg
Abbott. Sounding like a broken record, he too claims he doesn’t support
legislation that would “micromanage adult behavior.”
Considering that distracted drivers in Texas caused approximately 95,000 accidents and killed more than 500 people in 2013, I think it’s
time for lawmakers to manage adults’ irresponsible, dangerous behavior.
After all, adults are prohibited from engaging in a long list of conduct that puts others at risk — for example, drinking while driving,
speeding and tailgating. Nobody accuses lawmakers of micromanaging
adults when they set an appropriate speed limit or a minimum alcohol
content. Cell phone use is clearly tied to thousands of injuries and
hundreds of deaths every year and should be equally regulated.
Joining lawmakers in their efforts insurance, automotive and cell phone industry lobbyists back the bill, as do Texas residents affected
by distracted drivers. Berenson Law Firm also supports texting and cell
phone bans. The risks of injury are too high and the inconvenience to
drivers so miniscule not to pass this law.