Finally the Governor of Texas and Lawmakers Ban Texting and Driving
It took quite some time as well an enormous effort by two lawmakers, however, a sensible ban on texting while driving has finally been embraced by Texas. Were it not for then Governor Rick Perry who dropped his veto hammer on the ban of texting-while-driving which both chambers had cleared, this would have been done six years ago. Perry did not want the “behavior of audits to be micromanaged” by big government, adults who already are not allowed to do tequila shots and chug a beer as theY drive, those who muse respect speed limits that are state-imposed and wear a seatbelt.
No such overwrought nanny-state concerns were expressed by Governor Greg Abbott. As a matter of fact, it is Abbot´s goal to micromanage the dozens of cities which have imposed texting bans that are stricter prior to Texas coming to its senses and following 46 other states as well as the District of Columbia´s lead. Alright, a Republican governor in a red state which still obsesses over what bathroom should be used by transgender citizens may find “micromanage” to be an offensive choice of words.
To put it simply, what Abbott wants to do is to tidy things up a bit by creating an anti-texting law which is uniform and will help avoid confusion. And to be fair, this actually makes perfect sense. On Tuesday Abbott explained: “We are in no need of a patchwork quilt of regulations dictating the driving practices in Texas. That being said, it will not come as a surprise to witness a few cities or counties balking at the Johnny-come-lately state law that will preempt the much broader restrictions which they have in place against the use of mobile devices in vehicles.
Austin makes for the perfect example. The state´s capital city, in 2014 embraced proudly a comprehensive ban on the use of mobile devices in vehicles. At that time, the Austin Police Department stated the following in a release: “Austin is leading our state of Texas in an effort to help drivers refocus on the task of driving. What the hands-free initiative aims to do is increase safety by decreasing the amount of distracted driving, this includes all activities which could divert the driver’s attention from their main task of driving.” What the hands-free ordinance prohibits is any electronics, meaning cell phones to handheld games, the ordinance applied to bike riders as well.
The statewide texting ban which was hard-won and just signed by Abbott doesn’t even go that far. All it does is make it illegal for a driver to “send, read, or write an electronic message as they operate a motor vehicle unless of course, the vehicle is not in motion.” Violators of this ban will be cited and could face fines for their first offense of $25 to $99.
The ban will be taking effect September 1, marking the end of a battle taken on by state Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, as well as state Representative Tom Craddick, R-Midland, and others which lasted a decade. In a statement Craddick said: “The governor is, by enacting this legislation for public safety, saving lives by deterring this behavior that is dangerous and deadly. Texas has for quite a long time, needed this law to prevent the unnecessary loss of life in crashes that could be prevented, and we finally have it.”
The last time I wrote on this subject was back in March, I wrote a sentence which I took out and soon regretted it. “What will have to happen so that Texas will finally realize that something must be done about distracted drivers? Perhaps we will have to wait until someone crashes into a school bus packed with children.” It came across to me a tad sensational, so I switched it around using gentler words.
The very same day that my column was published online, a church bus packed with seniors down on Uvalde County was crashed into by a pickup truck driver. There were thirteen lives lost. The driver explained to a witness and later on to NTSB investigators that when the crash occurred, he was looking at his phone reading a text.
A witness to the crash that occurred on March 29, Jody Kuchler told the San Antonio Express-News that he had spoken with Jack Dillon Young, the driver as he was still pinned in his pickup. Kuchler said: “He kept saying, ‘I’m sorry, so sorry, I was sending a text on my phone.’ I told him, ‘Son, do you have any idea of what you just did?´ And he just kept saying, ‘I´m sorry.”
Sure, several medications were found by investigators in the front seat of Young´s pickup, these could have played a role in the fatal accident. The Texas Department of Public Safety, in their search warrant affidavit, stated that Young´s erratic driving could have been due to intoxication from “alcohol, a dangerous drug, a controlled substance, or a combination”. Could you imagine a person in that condition who on top of it is trying to text, as they drive a vehicle?
Ross Allen, a man who in that crash lost his father, proceed to not only file a lawsuit against the driver but also to sound the alarm for a statewide texting ban. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2015 3,91,000 people were injured and 3,477 people were killed in car accidents that involved distracted drivers. If involved in one, it is always best to contact an auto accident attorney.
Although a new law will not put a definitive end to texting and driving, no more than a speed limit will keep motorists from driving like maniacs sometimes; or DWI laws preventing all drivers from excessively drinking on occasion and getting behind the wheel. However, the right message is being sent by the Lone Star State to all drivers, not only minors: There will no longer be a tolerance for texting while driving anywhere in Texas. To this, I say, better late than never.
Call now or contact us today for your free case consultation if you’ve been involved in an auto accident in Corpus Christi as a result of texting and driving. The Law Offices of Jerry J. Trevino are here to answer any questions you may have regarding your case and want to get you in touch with an attorney in Corpus Christi immediately!