Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Texting while driving ban bills filed again

We’ll see if this gets a different result.

Drivers know the risks, and in more than 95 Texas counties they live under local cell phone ordinances that ban texting while driving. But the Lone Star State remains one of four states in the country without a statewide ban on the practice.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, hopes to change that with Senate Bill 31, which would make it illegal to text unless the vehicle is stopped. Lawmakers have shot down similar attempts by Zaffirini for four sessions in a row, but she hopes the fifth time’s a charm as lawmakers head back to Austin in January.

“All we can do is try,” she said. “It’s so important because more and more Texans have become aware about the danger that’s posed by texting while driving.”

Zaffirini’s legislation mirrors efforts by Rep. Tom Craddick, the Republican former House speaker from Midland, who filed anti-texting legislation in the last three legislative sessions. He filed his fourth attempt on the first day of bill filing last week. Once again, Zaffirini and Craddick are naming their legislation after Alex Brown, a West Texas high school student who was killed in a crash while texting and driving in 2009.

It will be an uphill climb, however. The legislation was approved by the House in 2015 and 2013but halted by the Senate. Zaffirini was just one senator short of passing the bill through the Senate in 2015. It passed both chambers in 2011, but was vetoed by then-Gov. Rick Perry.

But that veto was unusual, Craddick said, because Perry was in the midst of his first presidential bid. Perry called the anti-texting bill “a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults.”

Craddick is hopeful it won’t be vetoed by Gov. Greg Abbott if it passes both chambers during the 85th Legislature. He said he’s also heard positive remarks made by Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in Midland.

“(Abbott) has been pretty positive to people that have talked to him about it. I feel like he’ll sign it,” Craddick said. “(Patrick) said he thought the Senate would pass it, too.”

That would be a shift from earlier remarks made by Abbott, who said he opposed the legislationin 2014 and would veto any texting while driving legislation that made it to his desk. After the legislation made it through the House in 2015, Abbott promised to give it the “deep consideration it deserves.”

[…]

AT&T, which has been a big supporter of Craddick’s legislation, released a study that found that the four states without a statewide ban “have a roughly 17 percent higher rate of texting while driving than the 46 states with statewide bans.”

Texas A&M University’s Transportation Institute released similar studies on the state impact of texting while driving. College Station, where the university is located, recently passed its own ordinance that banned the use of a wireless device while driving.

Alva Ferdinand, a faculty member at Texas A&M’s school of public health, led a 2015 study that found a seven percent reduction in crash-related hospitalization in states that have enacted texting while driving bans. An earlier study by Ferdinand found that texting bans led to a 3 percent reduction in traffic fatalities among all age groups.

See here for a bit of background. On the one hand, Craddick’s optimism aside, Abbott has previously expressed opposition to a statewide ban, and I can’t imagine this will be any kind of priority for leadership. On the other hand, this did make it to the Governor’s desk once, and passed the House two other times, so the support is there, and if it does get to Abbott’s desk he may not feel compelled to veto it. I wouldn’t bet on this passing, but it has a chance, and that’s more than you can say for most bills.

Related Posts:

8 Comments

  1. Flypusher says:

    I’m far more worried about getting killed by someone texting and driving than I am about ISIS killing me.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    I could possibly be OK if texting while driving was criminalized, but not made a primary offense. In other words, that could not be the sole reason for a traffic stop to be initiated. I would be OK with a “texting” enhancement to charges filed against someone who caused an accident.

    The problem with making it a primary reason for pulling people over is, some folks can safely handle texting, just as some folks can safely handle eating a burger, drinking coffee, checking a GPS for directions, applying makeup, changing the radio station, etc. We don’t criminalize those behaviors, and they certainly aren’t cause to stop motorists.

    Another consideration: outlawing texting while driving will create some legal headaches for prosecutors. Most phones these days are able to be “locked,” and phone owners have a constitutional right against self incrimination, which permits a phone owner to refuse to cooperate with police by revealing their password to unlock the phone. Think of the problem faced by the government trying to unlock the San Bernadino shooter’s phone. Will prosecutors want to go through the expense and hassle of getting proof the owner was using the phone while actually driving?

    @Flypaper:

    Right now, I agree with you. It’s probably only a matter of time, though, until ISIS and their fellow Muslim extremists begin trying to initiate larger scale attacks here.

  3. Ross says:

    Bill, no one can safely text and drive. It just isn’t possible. It’s the same as trying to read a book while driving – your focus is on the words, not the road.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    @Ross:

    I agree with you, it isn’t safe while driving. That being said, I’m always wary of new reasons for the police to pull people over. I thought my suggestions were a pretty middle ground on this issue. The issue still has nuances. Someone going 75 down the highway in heavy traffic texting? Probably very unsafe. Someone stopped at a red light, texting, that another driver has to honk at when the light turns green? Annoying, but not terribly unsafe.

    I’m curious…..what would you propose, to deal with this very real issue? Just go ahead with making texting a primary offense? Do you agree with my suggestion that there be a penalty enhancement, in the case of accident/injury?

  5. brad moore says:

    Bill,

    Your thoughts aren’t unreasonable, but then you say something asinine by reckoning that outlawing texting while driving is simply a “new reason for the police to pull people over”. It is about saving lives. What part of that don’t you get?

    As for ISIS and their Muslim extremist friends cutting off heads over here soon I think you should be more worried about Trump grabbing your mom by the ….. before that happens. Glad she is not worried about that though per your previous post.

  6. Flypusher says:

    There’s a case to be made that texting while driving is even worse than DWI:

    http://distracteddriveraccidents.com/texting-driving-dangerous-drunk-driving/

    It is ridiculous that we even have to debate this. Put the phone down when your car is moving.

    As for ISIS, they are getting clobbered on the battlefield, so no doubt they’ll try to lash out through terrorism. Europe has more to worry about there, given geographic proximity and their failure to integrate their Muslim immigrants. But ISIS probably is relishing the thought of getting under you-know-who’s notoriously thin skin. Nevertheless, the odds of any of us getting attacked by foreign terrorism on American soil are low, low, low. Texting drivers are a more immediate menace.

  7. Bill Daniels says:

    You know, Brad, I used to think you were simply a very passionate, full on, party supporting, Democrat, right or wrong. Nothing wrong with that. I have come to the conclusion, however, that you just enjoy being vituperative and mean spirited, just because.

    Being concerned with police stopping motorists should be something any liberal or liberal leaning person should consider an important issue. The more reasons there are to pull someone over, the easier it is to stop people, especially to make pretexted stops that some might find to be profiling.

    Remember the Sandra Bland case? That trooper seemed to be filling his day with pretexted stops. Seems like his pattern was, set up on a non busy street, and stop every person he possibly could, writing warnings for those that had no real issues.
    Would you really like to add, “I saw the suspect look down” to the list of reasons to stop a motorist? Chances are, when you see a cop set up, you look down at your speedometer. I do. I’d prefer not to be stopped for that.

    “I saw the suspect looking down, so I stopped him on suspicion of texting while driving.” Maybe you were looking at a GPS, a map, the cup of coffee between your legs, or just looked down to check your speedometer when you saw the policeman.

    I’m interested in opinions of what should be done on this issue, but instead of giving your personal preference for a position, you chose generic vitriol.

  8. Flypusher says:

    I have seen plenty of people very obviously looking at phones while driving. It’s not as hard to spot as you are making it out to be, and to state the obvious, someone looking at a phone is keeping their eyes much more down and/or for longer amounts of time than someone checking GPS or changing the radio station or looking at the speedometer.