Texting and Driving

TARRANT COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH
“Safeguarding Our Communities’ Health”
Health Planning & Policy
March 17, 2015
POLICY
BRIEF
Texting and Driving: A review of the Texas House vote to ban texting while driving
Introduction:
The 84th Texas Legislature/House of Representatives on March 25, 2015, voted 102 to 40 to ban texting
while driving in the State of Texas. This is the 4th time this bill has been up for a vote since 2009 with
vetoes by the governor in 2011 and 2013. .
As in previous iterations of this bill, debate centered on the alleged violation of individual rights as well as
the difficulty of enforcement. Opponents of the bill echoed Governor Rick Perry’s sentiments when he
vetoed the bill in 2011 calling it a “government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults.”
The difference in the 2015 vote appears to be trend related. Forty-five other states have passed similar
bills. And locally thirty-eight 38 Texas cities have passed ordinances prohibiting texting while driving.
Text messaging is banned for all drivers in 45
states and the District of Columbia. In addition,
novice drivers are banned from texting in three
states (Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas). –
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Compelling information was presented to Legislators by traffic safety experts from various disciplines
regarding a rising accident rate and challenges to public safety attributed to texting while driving.
Research from the Texas A & M Health Science Center School of Public Health using traffic data
1
collected from 48 states between 2000 and 2014 found that states with bans on texting had a nearly 3
percent drop in accidents. With these figures, the study estimated that about 90 lives could be saved in
Texas if the ban was approved. These factors along with support from law enforcement officials,
insurance, and mobile phone companies appear to have outweighed the “individual freedom and rights”
argument. The result was best summarized by Rep. Tom Craddick, “If it can save one life, it makes a
difference to me”. House Bill 80 will now go to the Texas Senate in the form of Senate Bill 25 filed by
Senior State Senator Judith Zaffirini from Webb County. The main concern from both Houses at this
time is the response of Governor Abbott.
Considerations for Texas regarding ban on Texting while Driving:
•
•
•
How will this state law be rolled out in the State of Texas?
What mix of enforcement and public awareness will gain the most change in driver’s attitudes
among the different age groups of drivers?
Will Texas research and/or visit other states to obtain best-practice ideas on this change?
These and other questions will no doubt be considered as this bill moves forward in the Texas Senate.
Conclusion:
Many Texas cities have ordinances which range from no mobile phone use in school zones to no mobile
phone use while driving, While general laws exist prohibiting distracted driving, there is currently no
state-wide ban specifically prohibiting texting while driving. This has led to confusion and debate and
some feel; tragedy – in the form of alarming accident rates among our youth. Only time will tell what
information the Senate and ultimately the Governor need to move forward with this public safety issue.
2
`