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Bill to ban texting and driving in Texas gains momentum

Forty-four states have banned texting and driving. Texas is one of the holdouts; a bill that would have banned the practice was vetoed by then-Governor Perry in 2011 on the grounds that it intruded on personal liberty. Since then deaths caused by distracted drivers have continued: in 2014 alone distracted driving was cited by Texas law enforcement officers as a factor in 495 fatal accidents. Sugar Land Police cited driver inattention as a factor in 102 accidents in 2014.

Some state lawmakers want to try again, and this time the bill appears to have some traction. House Bill 80, if enacted into law, would make texting and driving a misdemeanor and impose a fine of up to $200 per violation. Last week the Senate Committee on State Affairs voted to approve the measure; it now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

The Sugar Land Police Chief says research shows texting and driving slows drivers' reaction times to the same extent as drunk driving. He is keeping an eye on the current bill, and says if it does not pass he will push for a ban specific to Sugar Land, similar to those already enacted by 40 other Texas cities.

Whether or not House Bill 80 becomes law, there is already a civil remedy in Texas for individuals injured by texting drivers. Texting and driving is clearly negligent behavior, and when a distracted driver causes a car accident, those injured victims have the right to sue the driver for monetary damages. Nonetheless a statewide ban coupled with a fine could go a long way to reducing this dangerous behavior.

Source: yourhoustonnews.com, "State lawmakers consider anti-texting and driving bill ... again," Rod Evans, May 7, 2015

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