Texas Legislators Fail in Effort to Ban Texting While Driving

Many states have passed laws that prohibit using handheld cell phones while driving. Texas lawmakers recently tried to add to the ever-growing list of states with laws on distracted driving, by passing a law prohibiting drivers from reading or sending text messages and emails while behind the wheel.

Despite overwhelming support for the bill in the legislature, the bill was promptly vetoed by Governor Rick Perry. Governor Perry believed that the legislation would "micromanage" people's driving habits. Instead of creating new laws that would penalize drivers caught using handheld devices, he wants to focus on educating drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.

Even though the bill was vetoed, the issue remains a serious problem that impacts motorists daily. In 2009, for example, 20 percent of traffic deaths in the U.S. were caused by distracted driving, twice the level recorded in 2005, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

According to Caranddriver.com, texting frequency rose from 9.8 billion monthly messages in December 2005 to 110.4 billion monthly messages in December 2008. Unfortunately, driving tests conducted by the magazine indicate that drivers preoccupied with cell phone use react to traffic conditions more slowly than drivers considered legally drunk.

Texas does currently have laws in place that prohibit cell phone use by younger drivers, and many cities within the state have also banned distracted driving. The new Texas law would have enhanced prior bills that had been debated, including one that would ban drivers from sending texts but not reading them. Problems with driver safety and enforcement derailed that attempt.

The new legislation was designed to allow motorists to communicate while driving in limited circumstances. Drivers using hands-free technology, a GPS system or other attached device are exempt from the texting ban, as are drivers who communicate with a job-related dispatcher. In addition, drivers would also have been allowed to dial a number to make a cell phone call.

It remains to be seen if legislators will try again to pass a bill in Texas. Until such a bill passes, using a cell phone while driving will remain an option for motorists. Drivers injured in a collision linked to distracted driving should consult a personal injury attorney to determine what options might be available.