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Thursday, June 13, 2024 — Houston, TX

Texting-and-driving bill in talks

By Johanna Ohm     2/7/13 6:00pm


Texting while driving caused an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 deaths last year in Texas alone, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. 

The issue has come to recent media attention in Houston as the 2013 session of the Texas Legislature that began Jan. 8 will be debating the passage of House Bill 63, or, the Alex Brown Memorial Act, named after a victim of a texting-while-driving accident.

Texas is one of 11 states nationwide which has yet to pass a statewide ban, according to the Official U.S. Government Website for Distracted Driving. 

Past efforts to ban texting while driving, spearheaded by Rep. Tom Craddick, have been vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry. The most recent attempt, House Bill 243, was vetoed in 2011, according to Texas Legislature Online.

Craddick explained his motivation to criminalize texting while driving on the Texas House of Representatives' website. 

"If passed next session, this law will provide a uniform statewide approach to curb this unsafe practice [texting] and will go a long way in helping educate drivers on the dangers posed by texting while driving and save lives," Craddick said after pre-filing the bill in November.

A ban on texting while driving has not been unanimously supported. According to Hands Free Info, a privately run website dedicated to informing the public on local traffic safety laws, Rep. Larry Taylor has voiced opinions that only the writing of texts should be prohibited, while the reading of texts should still be allowed.

The current wording of the bill also complicates the issue because of the question of the exact definition of what qualifies as text messaging.

"'Text-based communication' means a communication that is designed or intended to be composed with at least one hand on a handheld wireless communication device and that is transmitted between wireless communication devices for the purpose of manually communicating in a nonspoken manner with another person in a written medium," the bill states.

25 of Texas' cities have already passed bans on distracted driving according to Hands Free Info, including Austin and El Paso. The new act would enforce statewide regulations, according to a press release from Craddick.

Hanszen College senior Sarah Mason lives off campus and commutes to Rice on her bicycle. Mason said she frequently witnesses the problem of texting and driving in Houston traffic.

"When I ride my bike, it seems like everyone driving is on their phone," Mason said. "It's frustrating because I know they are not paying attention. I'll have the right of way but will still be waiting because I know someone is driving on their phone and not paying attention to bikers."

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