Last year the Texas state legislature approved a state wide ban on texting while driving, sending a strong message to drivers that distracted driving will not be tolerated. Unfortunately Texas Governor Rick Perry vetoed the measure because he felt it would infringe on the civil liberties of adults who are free to make their decisions.
This type of thinking flies in the face of logic. If we allowed people to behave as they wish when it comes to operating a motor vehicle we wouldn’t require driving licenses, prohibit drinking and driving or require seat belts. But has stood by his veto to this day and other Texas lawmakers have supported him.
Last week at a Texas Distracted Driving Summit in San Antonio, friends and family of Texans killed in distracted driving related crashes spoke to a large group of people about the importance of finally getting a distracted driving ban passed in the state. News reporters, politicians and police were among those in attendance, and perhaps, just perhaps, some of them were swayed in their thinking.
Texting, which places protracted demands on eyes, hands and attention spans, is a qualitatively different type of driver distraction. In June 2011, according to NHTSA statistics, more than 196 billion text messages were sent or received in the United States. That was up nearly 50 percent from a year earlier. Texting continues to grow as a medium of communication, with teens — the least capable drivers — the most likely to use it.
Last week’s Texas Distracted Driving Summit in San Antonio went beyond such statistics and trends. As Express-News staff writer Michelle Koidin Jaffee reported, a succession of surviving relatives told heartbreaking stories that put faces on the victims of distracted driving. Their message: Texans behind the wheel should put down their phones and drive safely.
Many Texas cities, including San Antonio, have ordinances against texting while driving. Last year, the Texas Legislature passed a measure with strong bipartisan support that would have established a statewide ban and sent a strong message on distracted driving. The efficacy of such laws, when enforced, has been demonstrated in NHTSA pilot programs.