The Texas legislature is striving again to try to pass a bill banning texting while driving statewide.
Texas is one of the few states left that does not ban texting while driving statewide. Many cities have their own ordinances, such as Arlington, Austin and San Antonio, but others have nothing in place. It is not for the want of trying to get an effective House bill passed to ban texting.
“It has been attempted three times, met a governor’s veto and a house member’s reluctance to support such legislation,” says Austin personal injury attorney, Bobby Lee of Lee, Gober & Reyna. Distracted driving causes one-in-five collisions in Texas and a texting driver is 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident.
The most recent attempt to ban texting while driving failed by a hair as the bill came up short of having the required number of members to take it to the floor for debate. Proponents of House Bill 80 have difficulty believing anyone would oppose a measure that would save people’s lives and reduce the carnage on the roads. It would make sending or receiving (texting) from a “portable wireless communications device” (cellphone) while driving a misdemeanor.
Proposed fines for violations of the HB-80 would range from $99 (first time offense) to $200 for every offense after the first. Texting the police or authorities about an emergency or a crime being committed would not be classified as an offense. It would also ban all texting even if a driver were to be stopped at a stop sign or red light.
Apparently there appears to be a deeply rooted fear on the part of some Republican senators, about two-thirds of the GOP caucus, that House Bill 80 amounts to micromanaging people’s lives and that it violates the Fourth Amendment. Accordingly, they refuse to have it come to them for debate, and further cite lack of any additional protection for state residents and the difficulties of enforcing such a law.
The legislature adjourned June 1, 2015 with an almost-victory in getting HB-80 closer to becoming a reality. “Will the almost-victory become law later? It’s hard to say,” said Lee, “The bill may only reach the floor if 60 percent of the 31 Senators, or 19, say okay to it. When the House adjourned, there were only 18 in support of the bill.”