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This could be the session that a statewide texting-while-driving ban passes

I haven’t followed the progress of the filed-every-session statewide-band-on-texting-while-driving bill, but recent tragic events have put a spotlight on it and raised the probability of it actually becoming law.

Rep. Tom Craddick

Texas is one of four states that do not have a statewide ban on texting and driving. That distinction has drawn renewed attention in recent days following an accident in West Texas in which a truck driver who was texting and driving crashed into a church bus and killed 13 senior citizens.

State Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, author of the texting ban bill that recently passed the House, said about the accident: “It’s a tragic situation. It’s a wasted situation.”

Craddick, who has pushed for the ban for four sessions in a row, offered condolences to the victims, their families and the church in a statement last week.

“No message or e-mail is important enough to risk injury or death while driving on our Texas roadways,” Craddick said.

If Texas had passed a texting-while-driving ban when Craddick first filed a bill creating one in 2011, Texas would have been the ninth state to pass such a law, he said. If House Bill 62 passes this session, it will be the 47th.

In 2015 and 2013, Craddick’s proposal passed the House but died in the Senate. In 2011, it traveled through both chambers only to be vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry, who said it would “micromanage the behavior of adults.”

In the 2015 session, a group of conservative senators helped kill the proposal, arguing that it could lead to unreasonable searches by police, among other concerns.

This year, both Craddick and the measure’s most vocal advocate in the Senate, Judith Zaffirini, are hopeful the measure will draw enough support in the upper chamber and Gov. Greg Abbott will sign it.

The fatal crash in question was horrible and the sort of thing that will make it difficult for someone who doesn’t like texting bans to stick to their principles. (Though some people still stand firm.) That said, the story notes that several former foes of this bill have changed their minds or at least softened their opposition over time, so perhaps Craddick’s bill had a better chance this session than I expected. I also have to think that with all of the anti-local control fervor swirling around the Capitol, the old argument that a statewide ban is a “nanny state” thing has perhaps lost some of its appeal. Funny how these things go.

One more point:

Craddick pointed to research from Alva Ferdinand, an associate professor in health policy and management at Texas A&M, who has said a statewide ban could prevent 90 deaths a year. The most effective way to curb deaths related to people texting-and-driving is to make it illegal, he said, comparing the move to the law that people in cars wear seat belts.

“No one ever thought seat belts would go into effect and now it’s just standard use to buckle up. Only once it became law did most people start to buckle up,” Craddick said.

As it happens, Texans are pretty good about buckling up, so there may be something to this. I have always believed that banning texting while driving will reduce the number of people who do it for the simple reason that a lot of us are rule-followers, and if something is illegal that’s a sufficient reason for us to not do it. Combine that with the relentless messaging campaign against texting while driving, and over time I think it will largely cease to be a problem. I’ll be very interested to see if there’s an immediate effect that can be detected if the Craddick/Zaffirini bill gets enacted.

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9 Comments

  1. paul a kubosh says:

    This bill needs to pass. Both for safety and all the business it will bring me.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    I’m torn about this. The libertarian in me doesn’t want to give the police yet another reason to pull someone over, yet I would like to prevent future tragedies like the church bus crash, and more probable, future minor slow speed rear end accidents while motorists are creeping through traffic. It’s also a slippery slope. Reading or sending a text is illegal. What about reading Kuff’s blog? That illegal, too? What about reading an address on a phone? What about looking at a GPS? Changing the radio station? How about monitoring the temperature gauge while stuck in traffic?

    Are all these things crimes, too? If someone is in his driveway with the key in the ignition and is texting, is that going to be considered a crime?

    I maybe could go with using proof of texting as the impetus to add a criminal charge to a civil charge after an accident. Making suspicion of texting while driving a primary offense? Not so sure about that.

    I’m also suspicious of anything that comes as a knee jerk reaction to something bad happening, like the church bus wreck. ZOMG! There was a shooting, let’s ban guns. ZOMG! 9-11. Let’s institute the TSA and totally go nuts instead of just banning boxcutters from being brought on planes and having cockpit doors beefed up, which would have been a sane reaction.

  3. C. L. says:

    Bill, what are you torn about ? ‘Texting While Driving’ stops aren’t going to happen if you’re sitting in your driveway or changing the radio station.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    @C.L.:

    If you can get a dwi in your own driveway, why not a ticket for texting? Yes, I realize driveway DWI isn’t commonplace, but it has happened. The whole point I am making is, passing a law like this isn’t as common sense as it would seem. If someone is considered to be driving if they are parked on the side of the road or in a driveway, with the key in the ignition, for the purposes of dwi, what’s different about texting? If you want to eliminate absurdities like this, that suddenly simple and common sense law just got a lot more cumbersome, as we carve out (or don’t) exceptions for people looking at driving directions on a phone, or looking at Kuff’s blog, a GPS, etc.

    http://www.kanslaw.com/blog/man-arrested-for-dwi-in-private-driveway-in-parked-car.html

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    @C.L.:

    There are already plenty of laws on the books to deal with inattentive drivers, regardless of the reason. Improper lane change? Following to closely? Weaving in and out of lanes? No turn signal? Fail to move when the light turns green at an intersection? A cop could already stop someone for that…..suspicion of DWI. The guy that killed all those people on the church bus committed a bunch of traffic infractions that he could have been stopped for, even though it isn’t technically a crime to text and drive at the moment.

  6. C.L. says:

    Next time you’re at the intersection of Hellbent and Getouttamyway, take a look at the drivers passing through the intersection while on the phone in some fashion. You can stop when you get to ten.

  7. voter_worker says:

    It’s called “sending a message”. If a jury were able to put the church bus perp away for 50 years I think at least some drivers would get the message.

  8. Flypusher says:

    “I’m torn about this. The libertarian in me doesn’t want to give the police yet another reason to pull someone over, yet I would like to prevent future tragedies like the church bus crash, and more probable, future minor slow speed rear end accidents while motorists are creeping through traffic. It’s also a slippery slope. Reading or sending a text is illegal. What about reading Kuff’s blog? That illegal, too? What about reading an address on a phone? What about looking at a GPS? Changing the radio station? How about monitoring the temperature gauge while stuck in traffic?

    Are all these things crimes, too? If someone is in his driveway with the key in the ignition and is texting, is that going to be considered a crime?”

    It’s no where near that complicated. If your car is moving, then take your eyes off the damn phone. Periodically looking at the gauges takes a fraction of a second, is not even close to being as distracting, and is part of the process of driving. Changing the radio station is one quick push of a button, which also doesn’t compare. The drivers looking at their phones while driving are glaringly obvious. This slippery slope of yours doesn’t slide.

    “I’m also suspicious of anything that comes as a knee jerk reaction to something bad happening, like the church bus wreck. ZOMG! ”

    You’re having timeline issues. This problem has existed and remedies debated for YEARS before this particular horrific incident.

  9. Paul A Kubosh says:

    It is already illegal for Commercial Vehicles.