Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

driving

Texting while driving ban passed

Somehow, this managed to happen as everything else was going on at the end of the session.

The Senate voted for a statewide ban on texting while driving Wednesday night, as an amendment added to another bill.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, added the bill as an amendment to a bill that would allow retired peace officers to carry certain firearms. The measure will now go back to the House to accept the amendments.

According to the Trib, the bill that got amended was HB242. The House had passed its own bill to ban texting while driving back in April, but it never made it to the Senate floor. That bill was HB243, and like HB242 it was authored by Rep. Tom Craddick. After the Senate passed in on Wednesday, it went to a conference committee and was passed again by the Senate on Sunday, then passed by the House before everything went crazy over SB1811.

According to a press release from Sen. Zaffirini, which is reproduced beneath the fold, the text-banning amendment is based on her bill SB46, and “would prohibit a driver from reading, writing or sending a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle, unless the vehicle is stopped. Voice-operated, hands-free and GPS devices would be exempt.” Assuming this does get signed, get ready to adjust your driving habits as needed.

(more…)

House passes texting while driving ban

Put that phone down and drive.

This is no LOL matter: Texting while driving could soon be prohibited statewide. The House preliminarily passed a bill [Thursday] that singles out “text-based communication” — texting, instant messaging or e-mailing — while driving as a punishable traffic offense. Using other applications, like GPS, Google or Facebook, on a smart phone would not be banned.

“Why is this being singled out when there are a multitude of things that distract us while driving?” asked Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, who voted against the bill. “I’m concerned about limiting freedom and making people criminals for just reading an electronic message.”

But Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, who authored the bill, told lawmakers the chances of someone having an accident while texting is 20 times that of a drunk driver. The majority of the House, 124 members, voted in favor of the bill; 16 members voted against it.

Current Texas law already prohibits drivers from using a mobile device in any capacity while driving in a school zone. Nor can teenage drivers under 18 text and drive. (Making an emergency call is an exception for both laws.) According to Craddick, texting is “just one more piece of the puzzle” that needs to be prohibited to keep roads safe.

Craddick’s bill is HB243, and it passed on third reading on Friday. The text specifies “a communication sent from a wireless communication device for the purpose of manually communicating with another person in a written medium”, which basically means texts, emails, and instant messages; whether you could get ticketed for a tweet or a Facebook status update or some other typing is unclear to me. Note Larry Taylor’s amendment, which narrows it to writing, not reading, and Marc Veasey’s amendment that adds in “The term does not include a text-based communication that is voice-activated and displayed in a manner that allows the driver to view the material on the dashboard or above the steering wheel.” In other words, there are still ways around this.

I have assumed for some time that Texas would eventually adopt a statewide ban, as many cities have adopted varying ordinances of their own. Among those that have already acted on this: West U, Bellaire, Galveston, Conroe, Seguin, and San Antonio. I have also assumed that the state would set a standard that would override local ordinances, but I don’t see anything in the bill that would specify that. So, even if this bill passes, be aware of those local variations.

No more texting while driving in Seguin

Add another city to the list of those that have banned the practice.

Seguin has joined several area cities in banning texting and using applications on cell phones while driving.

The new ordinance went into effect [last] Saturday, joining bans already in place in San Antonio, Universal City, Selma and Converse. The Seguin City Council voted unanimously in November to ban using wireless communication devices while driving.

The council set up a 30-day grace period to publicize the ordinance before implementing the law.

Offenders could face a fine of up to $500.

[…]

Seguin Police Detective Aaron Seidenberger said the focus of the ordinance is “safety, preventing injuries and preventing accidents.”

The offense makes it unlawful for “an operator of a motor vehicle to use a wireless communication device to view, send or compose an electronic message or manually engage other application software while operating a motor vehicle upon a roadway in the city,” he said.

Manually engaging other application software includes using built-in GPS, the Internet or Facebook. Talking on the phone is legal except in school zones.

“So, it’s not just texting,” Seidenberger said. “Technically speaking, you can’t go to your GPS app on a phone and pull up a location and hold it in your hand and manipulate the keypad or phone while you’re driving. You can cradle it where it’s hands-free, but you can’t manipulate it while you’re driving. ”

He said the law also applies when a motorist is stopped at a stop sign or red light.

Remember to adjust your behavior the next time you’re in Seguin. This is normally where I’d say that I expect there to be some attempt in the Lege to standardize these rules at the state level, but I’m not so sure about that for this session. There’s too much other stuff going on, and I don’t think anything that’s not on the approved Republican wish list will get much attention. I could be wrong, but I’d bet we’re more likely to see this come up in a future legislature than in this one.

Traffic deaths decline in Texas

Those of you looking for silver linings in the economic slowdown, here’s one.

In 2009, Texas saw a 12.1 percent decrease in the rate of traffic deaths, compared with a 9.7 percent drop nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The number of traffic deaths in the United States in 2009 was the lowest since 1950 – when there were a fifth as many cars on the road.

The sharp decrease is explained by a combination of factors – the sluggish economy (fewer jobs, less discretionary driving), an increase in seat belt use, safer roads and vehicles, and more enforcement and awareness programs, both on the state and national levels.

But experts agree that a decrease in fatal crashes involving young drivers is also key.

“The traffic safety problem in this country and in this state is far too significant to expect some solution from any one thing,” said Bernie Fette, a research specialist at the Texas Transportation Institute, part of the Texas A&M University System.

Over the years, the rate of fatal accidents involving drivers under 20 – historically, the most reckless age group – has steadily declined. Chandra Bhat, a transportation engineering professor at the University of Texas, said young drivers account for 6.5 percent of the driving population but are responsible for about 13 percent of fatal crashes.

“Clearly, young drivers contribute more than their share to accidents. That is not a question at all and has been known for a long time,” Bhat said. “The [overall fatality] decline is because of a decline among incidents involving young drivers.”

The full report is here. There’s a lot of reasons for the decline in fatalities, with an overall change in the culture that makes certain kinds of risky behavior such as drinking while driving no longer socially acceptable.

The technical solution to texting while driving

There’s nothing revolutionary about a device like this, but it could have a big effect.

I s a teenager’s life worth $99.95?

Is avoiding a lawsuit arising from unsafe driving practices by fleet drivers worth that investment?

Rodney, Robbie and Rocky Campbell hope so. The three brothers from Longview, along with Rodney’s wife, Tina Campbell, think they have found an ideal product — something that can save lives, reduce traffic wrecks, cut back on lawsuits arising from those wrecks and also allow them to make a profit.

The family’s company, Safe Driving Technologies, is marketing in five states a device that can disable cell phones from calls and texting while a vehicle is in use, according to Rocky Campbell. The device can be simply installed and has no monthly fees or additional costs, he said.

“It’s a simple plug in device that works in any car made after 1996,” Rocky Campbell said.

There are plenty of gadgets for exerting control over how your teenager drives. Some are fairly high tech, others not so much. Frankly, I don’t think the availability of such geegaws is going to change the dynamic of more cities, and I believe eventually the state, seeking to ban texting while driving, but at least you can claim there exists a non-governmental solution for the problem. Link via Grits.

San Antonio proposes texting-while-driving ban

It may wind up being a bit more than that.

The days of eating double-bacon cheeseburgers, putting on makeup and sending text messages from behind the wheel could be numbered in the Alamo City.

Police Chief William McManus on Wednesday made a pitch to the City Council’s Governance Committee for a citywide ordinance that would “prohibit failing to pay full-time attention to driving.” His recommendation stemmed from a memo from District 4 interim Councilwoman Leticia Cantu, who is seeking a ban on texting while driving.

Cantu said she decided to push for an ordinance after a recent near-miss in which she and her 18-year-old daughter were almost hit by an oncoming driver. “The guy was texting,” she said.

That first bit would be the stuff of Ken Hoffman‘s nightmares, but I rather doubt it will happen. My guess is that San Antonio will follow the example of many other Texas cities and simply ban texting while driving. And again, I expect this to come up before the Lege next year, with the goal being a single statewide standard for this.

Our teen drivers are better than yours

Good news is always welcome.

A new report by the Texas Transportation Institute found that the state’s rate of fatal teen crashes is dropping faster here than anywhere. Researchers looked at 37 states that put restrictions on teen drivers’ licenses and found Texas is alone in seeing the number of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes drop for five consecutive years.

“Texas is doing a better job than any of the other states,” said Texas Transportation Institute researcher Bernie Fette, co-author of the 46-page report released Monday. Fette credited not just the license restrictions but also programs in high schools to get kids focused on safe road behavior.

Since 2002, when 625 teen drivers were involved in fatal crashes, Texas’ numbers have come down each year. In 2007, 419 fatal crashes involved teen drivers.

[…]

Teen driving risks have been on the minds of lawmakers in Texas at least since 2002, when new rules for young drivers known as graduated driver’s licenses took effect.

Since then, new Texas teen drivers have had to spend six months with a learner’s permit before getting a license. After that, they must spend another six months with other restrictions, including a prohibition against driving between midnight and 5 a.m.

This year, lawmakers extended those probationary periods to 12 months each, and outlawed the use of cellphones by young drivers.

But Fette said his research suggests that tougher laws are only part of the reason for Texas’ success in making fatal crashes involving teen drivers less frequent.

After all, Texas’ laws have not been as strong as those in many other states. And some states with graduated driver’s license laws actually saw their fatal crash rate go up, Fette said.

In Texas, he said, 300 school districts are implementing a first-in-the-country program called Teens in the Driver Seat, an initiative that gets teens talking to their peers about the risks of driving. Preliminary research says the program, begun in 2003, has worked.

“The [graduated-license] law is a necessary foundation,” Fette said. “But that law can be reinforced or made stronger through a peer influence program like Teens in the Driver Seat. If you have a combination of the two, as Texas does, what you have is a really good one-two punch.”

Here’s what the TTI says on its homepage, and here’s their white paper. Good to see Texas leading the way in something that isn’t a negative.

You kids hang up and drive!

Some action on the cellphones and driving front.

The House tonight tentatively approved a bill restricting teens’ use of cellphones until they’re 18 and overhauling driver’s ed requirements in Texas. The bill would require all new teen drivers to have an additional 20 hours of behind the wheel experience, 10 of them at night, before they could get a driver’s license. And it would lengthen the ban on a new teen driver having more than one passenger under 21 in the car. The ban now last six months, but would be for the first year under the bill, passed on a voice vote.

Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, said he offered the bill after the community of Pottsboro in Grayson County had two teens killed in car crashes in one month. Parents there formed a group, “Less Tears, More Years.” They campaigned for more parental awareness of the risks of today’s teen driving — and more driver ed.

That one wasn’t on my list of bills to watch earlier in the session, but it’s been passed to engrossment (meaning, it was passed on second reading; it still needs final approval in the House) and assuming it doesn’t become a casualty of the calendar, I imagine it will pass the Senate, though I suppose some of the driver’s ed provisions might generate some debate. I don’t see anything particularly onerous in this, so unless someone knows of a hidden danger lurking in there, I think this is worthwhile. And according to Atrios, similar restrictions are being worked on in the Pennsylvania legislature.

You kids hang up and drive!

Some action on the cellphones and driving front.

The House tonight tentatively approved a bill restricting teens’ use of cellphones until they’re 18 and overhauling driver’s ed requirements in Texas. The bill would require all new teen drivers to have an additional 20 hours of behind the wheel experience, 10 of them at night, before they could get a driver’s license. And it would lengthen the ban on a new teen driver having more than one passenger under 21 in the car. The ban now last six months, but would be for the first year under the bill, passed on a voice vote.

Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, said he offered the bill after the community of Pottsboro in Grayson County had two teens killed in car crashes in one month. Parents there formed a group, “Less Tears, More Years.” They campaigned for more parental awareness of the risks of today’s teen driving — and more driver ed.

That one wasn’t on my list of bills to watch earlier in the session, but it’s been passed to engrossment (meaning, it was passed on second reading; it still needs final approval in the House) and assuming it doesn’t become a casualty of the calendar, I imagine it will pass the Senate, though I suppose some of the driver’s ed provisions might generate some debate. I don’t see anything particularly onerous in this, so unless someone knows of a hidden danger lurking in there, I think this is worthwhile. And according to Atrios, similar restrictions are being worked on in the Pennsylvania legislature.

On rudeness

John has a thoughtful post on the nature of rudeness and how he’s recently learned to deal with it. It’s good stuff, especially the bit on driving behavior. Check it out.