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Last minute scramble not enough to get Texas texting ban passed

Supporters of a statewide ban on texting and driving say they will not give up. Despite failing to get such a bill through the Texas Legislature again this year, the chief sponsor in the House says he will shoot now to get the ban approved in 2017.

Concern about texting and driving is not a new issue for lawmakers. It was big enough of a worry back in 2009 when we observed that state lawmakers had banned all but hands-free cellphone use in certain situations. The law specifically makes texting and driving in school zones illegal. Violating the law can yield a driver a $200 fine.

Meanwhile, some 40 individual communities in the state have seen fit to bar texting and driving within their boundaries, as have 46 of the 50 states. Backers of such bans say they simply recognize that the risk of distracted driving that results in injury or death escalates when people text and drive. And it’s not just young drivers who pose a threat.

The bill before the legislature this year would have made texting and driving illegal across the state. First offenses would have been punishable by a fine of up to $99. Repeat offenses would have triggered $200 fines.

The measure found great support in the House and passed. But when it got to the Senate, opponents were able to muster enough votes to prevent the bill from reaching the floor for a vote. A scramble of effort near the close of the session to get the bill considered wasn’t enough.

Opponents of the measure argued it might violate drivers’ rights against unlawful search and seizure. But they also said the measure isn’t needed. They say texting and driving is already illegal under reckless-driving laws.

Be that as it may, many studies have shown that texting and even talking on cellphones while driving leads to more accidents. Victims of those accidents may find that the justice available under criminal statutes isn’t enough. They should know that they have a right to seek compensation for the damages they suffer.

Source: The Dallas Morning News, “State texting ban is halted in Senate,” Marissa Barnett, May 28, 2015