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Galveston bans texting while driving

Consider yourself warned.

Galveston City Council members banned [texting while driving] Thursday, making the city the first in Galveston County to forbid motorists from using cell phones and other hand-held devices to view, send or compose electronic messages while driving.

Those caught texting while driving face a class C misdemeanor — the equivalent of a traffic ticket — and a fine of up to $500.

The law takes effect the first week of February.

[…]

Though it is now illegal to text while driving, motorists can defend themselves from getting tickets if the vehicle is stopped, if they were making a phone call, if they were texting to prevent a crime that’s about to be committed, if they were texting to obtain emergency assistance or if their life or safety is in immediate danger.

The ban does not apply to using voice-activated or hands-free texting devices, devices that are permanently installed in vehicles or navigation systems that are affixed to the vehicle.

More information here. The vote was 8-1, with the one dissenter wanting there to be more public discussion first. Note the defenses that Galveston will allow. In West U and Bellaire, texting and web browsing are still illegal even if you’re at a stop sign or red light. It’s because of differences like these that I believe there will be some action on this in the 2011 legislative session. As with smoking bans and school zone cellphone usage, whether you like this or not, there will be pressure to create a single standard.

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