Lawmakers to Again Consider Distracted Driving Legislation

01/31/2017

The 2017 Legislature will again consider legislation to ban texting while driving. This issue has been debated for the last three sessions but each time has ultimately failed to become law.

Although legislators have been unable to agree on statewide ban on texting while driving, numerous Texas cities have already done so.  Since the 2015 legislative session, the number of cities with some type of distracted driving ordinance has doubled to more than 80 cities. 

Leading the effort for a statewide law is former Texas speaker and long term state representative Tom Craddick (R-Midland) who will urge lawmakers, as he has in prior sessions, to pass legislation that bans texting while driving.  Craddick will be joined by State Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), among other interested parties, on Feb. 2, to hold a legislative briefing on the subject.

Research has shown that motorists who are texting while driving are many more times  likely to be involved in a traffic mishap than a drunk driver. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) reports distracted driving was  the major factor for more than 100,000 traffic mishaps in Texas last year.  TxDOT statistics also show auto accidents with injuries and fatalities have been increasing for the past five years in Texas

 Unfortunately, distracted driving also disproportionately impacts many of our young drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administrators says 10 percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years of age involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. This was the highest number for any age group.

Mark Hanna, a spokesperson for the Insurance Council of Texas (ICT), says it's difficult for many people who stare at their phones all day not to do the same while driving.  “You can only hope that it doesn’t take a major accident for distracted drivers to realize the dangers of texting and driving,” Hanna said.

Hanna said many of the companies that ICT represents have been instrumental in educating their policyholders on distracted driving.  Companies such as State Farm, Allstate, USAA and others, have played significant roles in organizing conferences, documentaries, social media and other events to raise the awareness of distracted driving. 

Thursday’s 2 p.m. briefing will bring law enforcement officers, federal safety officials, legislators, and family members who have lost love ones, to the Capitol to express their support for the distracted driving legislation. 

If the legislation passes, drivers violating the law could face a fine from $25 to $99.  A second offense would see fines increased from $100 to $200. 

ICT urges all Texans to be careful while driving and keep your eyes on the road. A text or email can wait and is not worth risking your life or the lives of others on the road with you.