When it comes to taking cell phones out of the hands of Texas drivers, Rep. Tom Craddick is operating on the maxim that if at first you don’t succeed, file again. And again. And again.
For the fourth consecutive legislative session, Craddick, R-Midland, has filed a bill banning use of texting while driving. Craddick again named the bill for Alex Brown, a 17-year-old who was killed when she crashed her truck as she carried on up to four different texting conversations at the time of the crash.
Monday is the first day bills for the upcoming legislative session can be filed. In addition to Craddick’s bill, Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Lardeo, also filed a bill related to using a handheld device while driving.
The lack of a ban, Craddick has said, makes Texas’ roads more dangerous, and many of the state’s roughly 3,500 roadway fatalities each year are “unnecessary and preventable.”
The bill does not ban the use of talking on the phone for those older than 18, but simply makes texting while driving punishable by a fine between $25 and $100. A host of exemptions, such as for police, and for emergencies are included.
Texas is one of four states – Arizona, Missouri and Montana are the others – that have no statewide ban on texting while driving. Fourteen states have bans on all use of cell phones behind the wheel.
Nationally, safety officials have called distracted driving an epidemic, and urged states to toughen laws so any use of a cell phone that includes holding it is banned. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, 476 people were killed in 2015 on state roads in wrecks where distracted driving was involved, about 13 percent of all roadway fatalities in the state.
Laws banning distracted driving, however, have faced an uphill battle in Texas. Former Gov. Rick Perry declined to sign Craddick’s bill, calling it “a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults.”
Perry, meanwhile, supported changes to ban teen drivers from using handheld devices.
In the past two sessions, the bill has failed to make it to the governor’s desk, with lawmakers saying it was unlikely to pass.