Texas cities institute texting bans while state drags its feet

Getting distracted driving legislation passed into law in Texas has been an upward struggle. The state’s culture of personal liberty has stymied efforts by state legislators to enact a texting while driving ban for all motorists.

Now, municipalities across the state are taking the matter into their own hands and seeking to lower the number of Texas distracted driver accidents by passing city ordinances banning texting while driving for adults. Some cities have even banned all handheld cellphone use while behind the wheel.

Presently, the state of Texas only bans texting while driving for novice drivers and bus drivers through a ban on all cellphone use. The state also prohibits texting and handheld cellphone use for all drivers in school zones. Beyond that, the state has been reluctant to legislate bans for adult drivers.

In 2011, Governor Rick Perry vetoed a bill passed in the state legislature that would have banned texting while driving statewide for all motorists, claiming the bill was the government’s attempt to micromanage adult motorists. The bill’s author, Representative Tom Craddick, R-Midland, plans to reintroduce the bill in the upcoming 2013 session.

Critics were also concerned over how the law would be enforced. The law would have prohibited drivers from using an electronic device to send, read or type a text-based communication, but exempted dialing a phone number or using a GPS application on a phone. These exceptions, some argued, would make it difficult for police officers to prove someone was texting rather than dialing a number.

However, these qualms have not deterred 28 cities across Texas from enacting their own texting and cellphone bans. For example, in Amarillo, law enforcement has no problem pulling drivers over for perceived texting while driving, since any handheld cellphone use while driving is a violation of the city’s cellphone ordinance.

Cities like Galveston and Conroe have instituted bans on texting while driving that fine guilty drivers $200 to $500. However, other cities believe that educating motorists on the dangers of distracted driving is more helpful than imposing penalties.

Distracted driving is a dangerous activity that causes thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries every year. Texting is one of the more common factors in driver distraction. The crash risk for a texting driver is 23 times more likely than if they drove without the distraction.

Until Texas lawmakers pass a statewide ban on texting to address the perils of distracted driving, people will continue to lose their lives to the dangerous behaviors. If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney.