Should The Lone Star State join 44 other jurisdictions, and pass a law banning, or at least restricting, cell phone use while driving? One West Texas state representative hopes that the third time is the charm for a law that addresses a major cause of car crashes.
Now in his thirtieth year, Midland Republican Tom Craddick is the longest-serving member of the Texas House of Representatives. He was on the floor when the state passed its first seat belt law in 1985. Over the past several years, Rep. Craddick has shown a renewed interest in auto safety laws.
House Bill 80, which would ban talking or texting with a hand-held device while driving, is now pending for the third time. In 2011, then-Governor Rick Perry vetoed the measure. In a statement, he said that he agreed with the spirit of the law but considered it an unnecessary government intrusion into private lives. In 2013, H.B. 80 died in a Senate committee, probably for similar reasons. However, there has been some political turnover recently, so H.B. 80 supporters are optimistic.
Rep. Craddick claims that a cell phone ban would save 90 lives in its first year.
Cell Phones and Distracted Driving
It seems rather unlikely that H.B. 80 will pass, given that support in the legislature dwindled last session and another conservative Republican is in the governor’s chair. Even if it does become law, distracted driving will still be a significant cause of serious accidents in South Texas.
H.B. 80 has a number of exceptions. For example, it would be still be legal to use a hand-held device to surf the web, use an app, read a book, or do anything other than talk or text. Looking at a weather map or examining the box score from the big game is every bit as distracting as talking and texting.
Moreover, cell phone cases are typically hard to prove in court, because the state must establish that the driver was either talking or texting. Because of this difficulty, officers are sometimes hesitant to write cell phone tickets, and prosecutors do not like the long odds at trial. Finally, hands-free is not risk-free. There is evidence that a hands-free device is just as distracting as a hand-held device. They may even be worse, because drivers may have a false sense of security.
Distracted driving causes serious wrecks every day. For a free consultation with an experienced New Braunfels personal injury attorney, contact our office. Hospital visits are available.