Hard work, common sense and perseverance have finally paid off. The governor signed a statewide texting while driving bill into law on Tuesday. I am thrilled!
The law was a long time coming. Rep. Tom Craddick tried four times over a decade to pass the anti-texting bill. Frustratingly, the bill failed each time. Once, the bill landed on Governor Perry’s desk, only to be vetoed because it “micromanage[d] adult driving behavior.”
When the bill takes effect on September 1st, Texas will become the 48th state to ban texting while driving — at least we weren’t last.
What does the texting ban mean to you?
Hopefully, you already put your phone away while driving, but now it’s the law.
House Bill 62 bans drivers from using a portable electronic communication device to read, write or send messages unless the vehicle is stopped. This includes texting, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, email and other types of electronic communications.
The first offense is a misdemeanor punishable by a $25 to $99 fine. Traffic citations for repeat offenses range from $100 to $200.
The police officer has the authority to issue a traffic ticket and a notice to appear, just as he would for other types of moving violations, such as speeding or reckless driving.
You may already be restricted on your cellphone use if you drive through one of the more than 90 Texas cities with local ordinances. Arlington and Denton, for example, restrict use of cell phones. However, to my disappointment, Dallas and Fort Worth currently have no prohibitions on texting.
Lawmakers argued that this legal patchwork could be confusing to drivers and proposed preemption on cities and counties from passing local anti-texting ordinances.
Congress will meet in a special session to consider 20 items, including limiting the authority of local municipalities to pass cell phone and texting ordinances. The statewide texting ban in H.B. 62 would then become the law everywhere in Texas, regardless of what is currently on the books in your town.
Distracted driving has become an epidemic on Texas’s roads. If a disease killed 455 people in a year, authorities would frantically search for a solution. Until now, that urgency was missing in preventing distracted driving deaths.
109,658 crashes, 3,000 serious injuries and 455 deaths were attributed to distracted driving in Texas in 2016. Distracted driving was a factor in one of every five traffic accidents. The highest rate of distracted driving accidents involved young people between the ages of 16 and 34.
Sure, some drivers will flout the law and continue to text while behind the wheel. But, most will put the phone down rather than risk an expensive ticket. As a result, our roads will be safer.