AUSTIN, TX— - The battle to ban texting and driving for all drivers in Texas is expected to resurface once again in the upcoming legislative session after several failed attempts.
Statistics show drivers who text behind the wheel are six times more likely to crash—that’s double the risk of drunk driving, according to AAA Texas. Texas is one of just four states without an all-driver statewide ban on texting and driving. At least 60 municipalities, including Texas’ capital city, passed their own laws to curb distracted driving.
“I think Texas is making a big mistake,” said Texas Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin. “You drive around and you will see people who don’t know where they are on the road because they are texting,” Sen. Watson said.
As he sees it, the patchwork of laws creates a quilt of confusion that's full of holes where it is legal for adults to text and drive. The current law prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using a handheld device while driving.
In the 2015 legislative session, a statewide distracted driver ban passed the State House but fell one vote short of reaching the Senate floor.
That same year distracted drivers caused more than 100,000 crashes, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. More than 3,000 people were seriously injured and nearly 500 others were killed in those crashed, TxDot reports.
Advocates believe a ban could have prevented some of those fatal wrecks.
Sen. Watson said, “I don’t think that there is any question that if we had a law that where we reduced the number of people distracted driving, it would save people's lives"
State Representative Tom Craddick introduced no texting and driving bills in the last three legislative sessions and each one failed, either in the legislature or on the governor’s desk.
The Midland Republican is expected to introduce another anti-texting bill in 2017 but it will likely be another uphill battle for Rep. Craddick and others who support a statewide ban.
“I would not bet that the law passes,” said Sen. Watson. “In fact, if required to make a bet of real money I would bet the law doesn’t pass.”
Some Republicans, known as the “Liberty Caucus” argued a statewide ban would not provide added protection to Texas drivers and would infringe on the liberties of adult drivers.
Sen. Watson said the ban is about public safety, not freedom.
“I am surprised that there is so much opposition to something that we know creates dangers on the road,” Sen. Watson said. He called the ban a common sense law but despite the statistics and persistence from supporters, he expect to see a distracted driving bill get defeated once again in 2017.
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