Perry still resisting texting while driving ban
Whether drivers are inching along Interstate 45 going toward downtown or driving through the campus, it’s a common sight to find those who consider their smartphones more interesting than paying attention to the road. All it takes is one second to miss a sudden stop, merger or a wreck happening in front drivers and their cars to become a statistic.
Texting and driving may not seem as dangerous as drinking and driving, but it has become harmful enough for state legislations to pass a ban on texting while driving and enough to make drivers think twice before doodling with their phones.
The Texas House of Representatives has devised a rare, bipartisan bill that would make that happen, yet Gov. Rick Perry won’t budge.
CHB 63, a bill that makes it illegal to text and drive, is inching closer to the House floor for a vote. After years of trying to pass a state-wide ban, it might finally come to fruition and save countless lives. If enacted, reading, writing or sending text messages from a handheld device — be it a phone, tablet or notebook — is punishable by a fine up to $100 and up to $200 on a subsequent offense.
Political science senior Tyler Albarado said the law could help but is skeptical of how many drivers will conform.
“I can see its good and bad points, but I don’t think it’s going to stop anybody,” Albarado said.
The same applies to DWI laws; however, lawmakers saw the merit in punishing those who drove while drunk in 2011 and in punishing those who get behind the wheel and text without any consideration for other drivers. At that time, the state Congress passed HB 242 and sent it to Perry’s office, where he vetoed it.
Perry released a statement on the veto, which can be seen on texastribune.org, on June 17, 2011.
“I support measures that make our roads safer for everyone, but House Bill 242 is a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults,” Perry said.
“Current law already prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from texting or using a cell phone while driving. I believe there is a distinction between the overreach of House Bill 242, and the government’s legitimate role in establishing laws for teenage drivers who are more easily distracted and laws providing further protection to children in school zones.”
That was two years ago and nothing has changed. A bill is being presented to the governor to create a statewide standard on banning texting while driving, and the governor is being as obstinate as ever.
Lucy Nasheed, spokesperson for Perry, released a statement to statesman.com on Feb. 26 reaffirming the governor’s belief that education and not legislation should be the key to stopping adults from texting and driving.
“Gov. Perry continues to believe texting while driving is reckless and irresponsible, and as he noted last session, current law already prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from texting or using a cell phone while driving,” Nasheed said.
“The key to dissuading drivers from texting while driving is information and education, not government micromanagement.”
Unlike last time, however, Perry is in the minority opinion this time because Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, the author of the bill, has heralded HB 63 as “the big bipartisan bill of the session.” It has 27 sponsors with considerable representation from both parties.
According to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Insurance Solutions, of the 3,048 traffic fatalities statewide in 2011, 13.4 percent — equivalent to around 408 deaths — were because of “distracted driving.” Legislation like this could force drivers to think twice about fiddling with their phones, saving their lives. It could even save the drivers of other cars who would otherwise have to pay the price for the other driver’s negligence.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association Statesman, at least 39 states and Washington D.C. have banned texting and driving. Mayor Annise Parker has even promised to back an ordinance in Houston if HB 63 fails or is vetoed.
Laws are meant to curb the dangerous behaviors of its citizens, so for Perry to say that a law such as this is a “government overreach” is a complete farce. For example, it’s against the law to do certain drugs because it hurts public health, regardless of whether the individual or even the public wants to do them. Laws limiting speed are a “government overreach” because they also “micromanage the behaviors of adults,” forcing drivers to drive at safe speeds, despite the fact no one wants to when they have some place they urgently need to be. It’s a slippery slope and a very libertarian argument that Perry makes.
Perry is only right one regard: Education and information about the issue are important. However, it must be followed up by a consequence. A person is more likely to think twice about texting and driving if they know that reading a text will cause them to have to cough up a Benjamin or two.
Alex Caballero is a creative writing senior and may be reached at [email protected].