Texas lawmakers try again to ban texting and driving
If some Texas lawmakers have their way, texting while driving will soon become illegal in Texas. Former Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick recently filed legislation that would do just that. Texas lawmakers passed a similar ban on texting two years ago. However, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed the bill. Perry said that texting while driving “is reckless and irresponsible” but that he saw the bill as “a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults.” The proposed law is named in honor of Alex Brown who died in a car accident that was caused by texting while driving. According to Craddick, the primary purpose of the ban is to stop the use of a wireless communication device to read, write or send a text communication while driving.
However, the ban does not encompass all potentially distracting tasks. For example, the ban would not apply to dialing a number on a cellphone, using GPS on a hand-held device, or using hands-free or a voice-operated device.
The proposed bill comes as Texas roads are more dangerous than ever. In fact, the last day without a fatality on Texas roadways was Nov. 7, 2000. Since that time, it has been estimated that 41,252 people have died in accidents caused by not wearing seat belts, drinking and driving and distracted driving. As cellphones have become more common, distracted driving has played an increasing role in accidents, injuries and fatalities on Texas’ roadways.
Texas’ distracted driving laws
The current law in Texas on distracted driving is practically nonexistent. Existing law only prohibits teenage drivers under the age of 18 from using a cellphone or texting while driving. Texas has also banned the use of hand-held cellphones and texting while driving while in school zones.
About 20 cities across Texas have passed ordinances against texting and driving. However, according to statistical information, the ordinances are rarely enforced. For example, since such an ordinance went into effect in Galveston in 2010, police have only issued 60 tickets-fewer than three tickets per month.
According to law enforcement, the problem in enforcing the law is the way that many ordinances are written. Many ordinances allow drivers to scroll through or dial on their phone, forcing law enforcement to determine whether a driver is dialing, finding a phone number or texting.
Law enforcement says that a complete ban on held-held devices is the only way that they can easily ferret out scofflaws. In El Paso, the only Texas city with a complete ban on hand-held devices, police have written more than 15,000 tickets since the city’s ordinance went into effect less than two years ago.
Consult an attorney
The chance of a statewide ban on texting while driving is unclear at this point. However, even if the bill is passed as-is, it contains many exceptions that will make it difficult for police to enforce the law. Unfortunately, this is likely to make it as effective as the current city ordinances in curbing texting while driving.
Despite the proven dangers of texting while driving, many drivers choose to forgo common sense, putting themselves and other drivers in danger for the sake of staying connected. If a distracted driver has injured you or a loved one, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. An attorney can advise you of your rights and work to hold the responsible parties accountable for their negligent actions.