Texting while driving

(FYI – Governor Perry vetoed this last time and had given no indication he has changed his mind.)

I was a “NO” vote on the texting while driving ban. Here’s why: (1) this law is unenforceable; (2) innocent drivers can quickly get caught up in a “guilty until proven innocent” scenario; and (3) studies show this law does not reduce accidents.

Before all this new smartphone technology, this body used to debate applying makeup, eating, shaving, and even changing the radio station as “distracted driving.” This day and age the new argument is over texting while driving. There is nobody who questions that distracted driving is dangerous driving. It can kill. It has killed. We heard countless anecdotes that will make your heart cry.

That said, our job as legislators – as law makers – is to craft a law which will reduce the number of accidents caused by distracted driving. Does HB63 do this? No, not in my opinion, and can easily cause legal and financial problems for innocent drivers.

Unenforceable: First, if HB63 as currently written were to become law, you CAN NOT text while driving. But you can play Angry Birds, Scrabble, maybe check a grocery list, check your email, download the song playing on the radio, or double check a soccer practice location. You can even update your Facebook status and Tweet the final score of the Astros game (they probably lost, FYI). But do not text!

I’m not suggesting anybody should be doing any of these distracted driving activities – they are all foolish and dangerous and can cause serious injuries and death. But under HB63 it’s all still legal.

Innocent drivers: If this bill passes as is, a law enforcement officer who suspects you are texting, can stop you, and cite you for texting while driving, even though you were not doing anything illegal. This now puts an innocent driver in the judicial system of having the burden of proof that he/she was NOT texting and therefore not breaking the law. How much will this battle cost? How many days of missed work will it take to fight this citation? And they did nothing wrong.

Effectiveness: Testimony revealed there is not a single study which can prove texting while driving bans decrease accidents. In fact, one study says a texting while driving ban actually increases accidents. How can that be? The study concluded that when NO BAN exists, people keep their phones closer to the top of their steering wheel, keeping their eyes in closer visual contact with the road. When a texting ban DOES EXIST, people will still text, but in an effort to hide their phones, lower their phone closer to their laps, moving their eyes further from the visual of the road. This is more dangerous and causes more accidents.

Again, I was a “no” vote on the ban on texting while driving. And it has nothing to do with safety, but rather as a lawmaker, this bill is unenforceable as written, can assume drivers guilty before innocent, and it does not work to reduce accidents.


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