Texting While Driving Ban Could Go Statewide Next Session
AUSTIN, Texas — It has been a tough sell in the Texas Legislature, but there's a new push to get a statewide ban on texting while driving passed.
Wednesday, lawmakers, police and families who support the ban came together to talk strategy at the first-ever AAA Texas Distracted Driving Policy Summit.
"We're losing too many fellow citizens, needlessly to distracted drivers," said State Representative Byron Cook.
He’s one of several state lawmakers putting pressure on their legislative peers to pass a full statewide ban on texting at the wheel.
"This has a tremendous negative impact on our state, and in the House we remain committed to addressing this issue," said Cook, who represents Texas House District 8.
Austin and 59 other Texas towns have some sort of ban on texting or phone use in the car, leaving a patchwork of different laws across the state.
"You know you're not going to change behavior until you address this uniformly," said Cook.
State Representative Tom Craddick introduced bills in each of the last three legislative sessions with no luck. Two stopped short in the Senate in 2015 and 2014. The other recent attempt was vetoed by then Governor Rick Perry in 2011. One of the biggest opponents remains State Senator Konni Burton.
--In a statement to Time Warner Cable News the Fort-Worth Republican said:--
"I am opposed to any additional legislation targeting cell phone use while driving. We currently have a number of laws on the books for hazardous driving, which provides sufficient cause for law enforcement to stop a motorist. However, to target the specific act of texting while driving creates a host of issues for both the citizen and law enforcement. Police could initiate a stop in which they suspect the driver of texting; however, how will that officer prove that citizen was in fact texting while driving and not using GPS or dialing a number? Will they search the phone for a text? No. By law, that requires a warrant. Furthermore, education and information campaigns have always shown to be effective in changing the culture. We should focus on those avenues, rather than embrace the unintended, and unwanted, consequences of criminalizing the use of a device."
Lt. Craig Cummings with Texas Highway Patrol said the law is enforceable and catching a texting driver is as easy a spotting one without a seatbelt. Both, he says are equally as dangerous.
"If you're paying attention to what's going on, on the phone, that becomes the priority. What needs to be the priority is what's going on around you,” said Cummings.
Texas is one of four states without a full texting ban. Only the state's youngest drivers aren't allowed to text at the wheel. Rep. Craddick’s bills would have made it a misdemeanor to read, write or text from a mobile device while driving.
Governor Greg Abbott declined to endorse either side of the argument. A spokesperson released the following statement:
"Governor Abbott will consider any proposal passed by the Legislature with the goal of making Texas better."