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Why is Distracted Driving Still OK in Texas?

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Unlike nearly every US state, Texas has no state-wide law banning texting while driving. Only Texas, Arizona, Missouri, and Montana have yet to ban the practice. In fact, many of the most populous states have already beefed up their existing bans or have passed more-stringent hands-free laws, banning all handheld use of phones, tablets, and gaming devices while operating an automobile.

Why is Texas lagging behind the rest of the nation?

Texas has actually passed a ban on texting while driving. In fact, Texas has done it twice.

In 2011, the Texas Legislature was successful in passing a statewide ban. Unfortunately, and despite overwhelming public support, Governor Rick Perry vetoed the ban.

Again in 2013, a similar bill was passed with wide bipartisan support, but it died after the Senate Transportation Committee refused to allow a vote on the bill.

In 2015, another bill aimed at banning texting and driving, House Bill 80, was introduced. The bill approved by the Texas House panel would have prohibited the use of portable wireless technology while operating a motor vehicle within the state, but was ultimately defeated in the Senate before becoming law.

Now to be fair, Texas does forbid drivers from using hand-held communication devices in school zones, and Texas law also states that school bus drivers, and new drivers, must refrain from texting or making telephone calls while driving—even with a hands-free device, see more here. Unfortunately, this only applies to a very select group of drivers and ignores the fact that distracted driving affects all age groups and types of drivers.

In 2014 alone, 3,179 people in the U.S. were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers, and an additional 431,000 were injured. In 2015, there were 105,783 traffic crashes in Texas that involved distracted driving, leading to at least 476 fatalities.

The sobering truth is that texting while driving makes a car accident 23 times more likely to occur. While a debate can be held over the effectiveness and enforceability of these distracted driving laws, the same arguments can be made with regard to seat belt laws emerging in the 1960s.

Just because something is difficult to enforce doesn’t mean the issue should be ignored.

Using a cell phone while driving is incredibly dangerous and should be illegal, and as such, many Texas cities have taken the initiative to ban the dangerous practice within their jurisdictions. These cities include: Alamo, Alice, Amarillo, Angleton, Anthony, Aransas Pass, Argyle, Arlington, Austin, Balcones Heights, Bedford, Bee Cave, Bellaire, Big Lake, Boerne, Brazoria, Brownsville, Buda, Canyon, Castle Hills, College Station, Conroe, Converse, Corpus Christi, Deer Park, Denton, Edinburg, El Paso, Farmers Branch, Floresville, Fredericksburg, Galveston, Garden Ridge, Grand Prairie, Groesbeck, Harlingen, Helotes, Hereford, Hill Country Village, Hurst, Jacksonville, Kingsville, Kyle, Laguna Vista, Lake Dallas, Lake Tanglewood, Lakeway, Laredo, Liberty Hill, Little Elm, Lockhart, Magnolia, Maypearl, McAllen, Meadowlakes, Midland, Midlothian, Mission, Missouri City, Mont Belvieu, Mount Pleasant, Mount Vernon, Nacogdoches, New Braunfels, Nolanville, Overton, Palmview, Pampa, Pecos, Penitas, Pharr, Port Aransas, Richwood, Rowlett, San Angelo, San Antonio, San Benito, San Juan, San Marcos, Schertz, Seagoville, Seguin, Selma, Shoreacres, Sinton, Snyder, Socorro, Stephenville, Sugar Land, Sunnyvale, Sunset Valley, Sweetwater, Tomball, University City, Watauga, West Lake Hills, West University Place, White Settlement, Wichita Falls, Wimberley, and Windcrest. Several other cities—including Abilene—are currently looking at passing similar measures.

Some of these cities have enacted laws banning texting while driving, while others have enacted more-restrictive “hands-free” ordinances. Stay tuned, we will list the cities Thursday.

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