Today’s Star Telegram editorial wisely observed that “Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick should bring the texting-while-driving bill to the floor and let senators vote or explain why not at every victim’s funeral.”
Just a few weeks ago, the House again passed a bill for the fourth straight session that would ban texting while driving throughout the state. Our representatives know that distracted driving is incredibly dangerous and voted to do something about it.
I see far too many car wrecks as a personal injury lawyer that are caused when a driver admits he or she didn’t see the car in front was at a complete stop because they were looking down at their cell phones.
We need to stop drivers from texting while driving. But once again, this common sense law appears to be in jeopardy of passing.
First amendments were forced that watered down the bill. Instead of a primary offense, as in the original version, the amended version made texting while driving a secondary offense, meaning officers would have to have another reason for stopping a driver in order to cite her for texting while driving. That means if a police officer pulled alongside a driver whose head was buried in her phone, he would not have probable cause to make a traffic stop.
He or she would have to be speeding, swerving, running a red light or committing another traffic violation, and only then could the officer cite the driver for the primary offense and texting while driving. That obviously lessened the chance of anyone getting stopped by a police officer.
Then the bill was further weakened to only ban reading and typing text messages.
Sure, the bill could have been stronger, but I was pleased that we were finally going to join the other 46 states that have banned texting while driving.
Now even this diluted version may be on the chopping block.
Four years ago, a similar bill landed on the governor’s desk. With his signature, he had the opportunity to save lives and prevent Texans from being injured. Instead, then Gov. Rick Perry vetoed the bill, claiming the law micromanaged the behavior of adults. Since that day, more than 1,000 Texans have died in distracted driving accidents.
Somehow key state senators and our lieutenant governor continue to push this nonsensical argument. If we can save lives, we should micromanage behavior. We require drivers to wear seat belts, drive below certain speed limits, and not drive while intoxicated, right?
Governor Abbott of all people must understand the agony people suffer after being in a serious accident. He was the victim of a crippling injury when a falling tree branch hit him as he was running in Houston in 1984, sued the tree trimmer and home owner, and received a total settlement worth $9 million.
The senate has the votes to pass the bipartisan bill. So what’s the problem? The senate leadership claims to want even more support from Republicans.
Almost 100 Texas municipalities have anti-phone and texting ordinances
Over 95 cities throughout Texas already prohibit cell phone use and texting while driving, including Arlington, Hurst, Grand Prairie, and Denton in North Texas. Conspicuously missing from that list are Dallas and Fort Worth, where most of us live and work. This patchwork of protection doesn’t cut it.
Clearly there is an overwhelming desire to stop this dangerous conduct. It is time to listen to your constituents, senators. Instead of forcing each local government to pass its own rules, make the ban universal across the state.
Let the senators and representatives in your district know that you support a texting ban. Trust me, they listen when they hear from hundreds of their voters.
Not sure who represents you? This site provides you with lawmakers’ names, emails and phone numbers so you can express your support of the texting ban.
Our lives depend on it.