By an almost 2-1 margin, the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill banning texting while driving. This bill was aimed to reduce the amount of individuals that have been seriously injured or killed as a result of distracted driving. If this bill is approved, then the state will join 39 other states with similar distracted driving laws.
Ultimately, this bill will prohibit motorists from using their phone while operating their vehicles. If drivers are caught doing so, they can be fined $100 for their first offense and $200 for the second. The bill does enter some “grey area,” however, regarding the use of electronic devices – which are permitted for the use of GPS or in emergency situations. Also, it may prove tough for officers to differentiate as to whether they were using their phone for these specific purposes or not.
Several legislators were divided on whether or not this bill could provide a solution to the problem. There are many proponents of the bill, but Governor Rick Perry has been straightforward in pursuing a veto of the bill. Perry believes that is the responsibility of the driver to make safe, intelligent decisions while operating their vehicles.
The bill, which was written by former House speaker Tom Craddick, underwent a three-hour debate in the House and settled with a vote of 98-47. It has been titled the “Alex Brown Memorial Act,” after a teen was killed in 2009 after rolling her pickup while sending a text.
Texas House of Representatives passed a similar bill the last time they were in session in 2011, but it was vetoed by Perry who once again felt that responsibility is on the driver.
Sergeant Lance Koppa, spokesman for the Highland Park DPS, said that Highland Park Police department would be ready to enforce the ban on texting and driving.
“If this passes and becomes state law and is a new part of our traffic code, we would start with educating the motoring public on the new law,” Koppa said. “Enforcement would be similar to the enforcement already in place in school zones during those times when use of a wireless communication device prohibited.”
This bill excludes the city of El Paso, which currently bans all cell phone use while driving – and the city is allowed to keep its current ordinance. A similar cell phone ban in Amarillo would be struck down if the bill were to become law as well.
After a long fight on the floor of the House of Representatives, it was struck down 74-70. Opponents said that this bill would remove police officers’ impetus for pulling over drivers who are texting.