2013 Texas Legislative Update: Texting While Driving Ban – Coming Soon to Texas?


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Now that almost everyone has a cell phone, distracted driving has become an everyday occurrence across the country.  According to the Parkview Trauma Center’s “Don’t Text and Drive” campaign, individuals who drive while sending or reading texts are 23% more likely to be involved in a car crash than other drivers.  Many teens and adult drivers are signing a pledge to not text and drive, sometimes at schools with their classmates, the way a generation ago teens pledged to not drink and drive.  The comparison is apropos as an October 2009 CBS News/New York Times poll that found 50% of Americans believe that texting behind the wheel should be punished at least as harshly as drunk driving.  However, such harsh penalties are far from current state laws on cell use while driving and proposals in states without texting while driving laws.

This legislative session, Texas Representatives and Senators could considering several bills on texting while driving.  House Bills 27, 63, 69, 108, 347, and Senate Bill 28 are all different versions of a potential law to criminalize text based communications while driving.  The bills are distinguishable by their wording, including specific language about emailing as well, or exclusions of law enforcement and emergency responders on duty.  However, the purpose is the same.  Texting while driving is clearly unsafe and should be stopped.

It’s about time Texas caught up with the nation on cell phone use while driving laws.  Currently 39 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging while driving for all drivers, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.  Ten states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands go further and prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving.  Banning all handheld cell use makes sense because holding the phone alone prevents drivers from having two hands available in the event of an unexpected occurrence while driving.  However, a total ban on cell phones while driving may be too much to quickly for Texas.

The Center for Children, Law and Policy supports the Texas legislature in enacting a law banning texting while driving.

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  1. The CDC just reported that 60% of older teens routinely Text and Drive. I think its starting to become clear that legislation has value in raising public awareness in forums like this one but it will be difficult to solely legislate our way out of this issue. I also read that over 3/4 of teens text daily – many text more than 4000 times a month. New college students no longer have email addresses! They use texting and Facebook – even with their professors. Tweens (ages 9 -12) send texts to each other from their bikes.

    I decided to do something about distracted driving after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me by a texting driver. Instead of a shackle that locks down phones and alienates the user, I built a texting asset called OTTER that is a simple and intuitive GPS based, texting auto reply app for smartphones. While driving, OTTER silences those distracting call ringtones and chimes unless a bluetooth is enabled. The texting auto reply allows anyone to schedule a ‘texting blackout period’ in any situation like a meeting or a lecture without feeling disconnected. This software is a social messaging tool for the end user that also empowers this same individual to be a sustainably safer driver.

    Erik Wood, owner
    OTTER app
    do one thing well… be great.

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