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Government/Politics

Support Builds For Statewide Ban On Texting While Driving

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Ryan E. Poppe
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Members of a Texas House committee receive emotional testimony with regard to proposed legislation that would impose a statewide ban on texting while driving. Support for the measure at the State Capitol continues to build and even the governor indicated he could support a ban.

In 2011, Rick Perry, then the governor, vetoed a bill to ban texting while driving.

Midland Republican Tom Craddick said in 2013 that there were no “deathless days” in the state of Texas. “There were 463 deaths that were due to distracted driving. If you look at your phone for five seconds driving at 55 miles per hour, you have driven the length of a football field without your eyes on the road,” Craddick explained.

But Republican Chris Paddie of Marshall questioned the bill. “Is me picking up my phone, continuing to drive down the road any more distracting than my wife sitting next to me in the car having lots of conversation all the time? I’m just saying, I guess it becomes a question of what’s distracted driving,” said Paddie.

Paddie worries that the language in city ordinances, like the ones passed in San Antonio and Austin, would conflict with what the state labeled distracted driving.

Craddick said he would open to establishing some uniformity between these city ordinances and a statewide texting ban. He also reassured his House colleagues that the ban would not apply to picking up a phone call or using your GPS.

Speaking at the State Capitol, Jeanne Brown said she wished there had been a state law in place the morning her daughter decided to text and drive while on her way to class. Her daughter, Alex, died in 2009, losing control of the car she was driving while texting her friends. Brown had also previously testified in front of lawmakers on the issue.

This time, Brown told the House’s Transportation Committee the human brain was not meant to multitask while driving. “Brain research has shown that the part of the brain we use to drive with is the same part of the brain we use to text with. The problem is that part of the brain cannot multitask, and if the cell phone is in our hand, then the brain pays attention to the cell phone,” Brown told the committee.

The committee’s chair, El Paso Democrat Rep. Joe C. Pickett, left the bill pending.

Unlike his predecessor, Gov. Greg Abbott said in February that he would be open to signing a statewide texting ban into law if it made it to his desk.