Gov. Perry should support ban on texting while driving

Posted Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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During an emotion-filled hearing of the Texas House Transportation Committee on Tuesday, lawmakers heard wrenching stories about people who have died in accidents on streets and highways when they or others were texting while driving.

Driver distraction accounted for 81,000 vehicle crashes in 2011, including 13.4 percent of the 3,048 fatal wrecks, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

While any cellphone use (such as dialing or talking) can be dangerous, studies show that texting demands the longest "eyes-off-the-road" time, which is why a growing number of cities and 39 states have banned the practice.

Arlington and at least 24 other Texas cities have ordinances against texting while driving, but there is no statewide law against it.

Gov. Rick Perry has said he considers a ban an unnecessary intrusion of government into people's lives. Legislators passed such a law in 201l, but the governor vetoed it, saying educating Texans on the issue would be more effective.

Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, has introduced HB63, a bill similar to the one Perry rejected two years ago, and it appears to have wide support in the House.

Republican Rep. Diane Patrick of Arlington is listed among 17 co-authors. (

Although Perry says he believes texting at the wheel "is reckless and irresponsible," he has not taken a final position on the proposed legislation, a spokesperson said.

Perry should realize that the proposal isn't for what he calls "government micromanagement" but for government intervention to help save lives.

As Perry has said, "information and education" are important tools that can be used in curtailing an irresponsible and sometimes deadly activity. And broadly enforcing a ban on texting while driving could be difficult.

But as experience with mandatory seat belts has shown, having a law on the books emphasizes the message and acts as a stronger deterrent to dangerous behavior.

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