A group of Texas Senators recently blocked a vote on a proposal to ban texting while driving statewide, killing the proposal which many other lawmakers support and which will hopefully become law when Texas state legislators return to work in 2 years, according to San Antonio auto accident attorney Frank Herrera Jr., founder of The Herrera Law Firm in San Antonio, TX.
"Study after study has repeatedly demonstrated that texting while driving greatly increases the odds of a driver causing a serious or even fatal car accident," Herrera said. "Hopefully, state law makers will prevail next time this issue comes before them in 2017. Unfortunately, between now and then, many responsible drivers will likely be involved in a serious motor vehicle accidents caused by texting drivers."
Freshman Texas state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, organized the group of state Senators who blocked a vote on House Bill 80 (HB-80) overwhelmingly approved in the state House of Representatives that would have banned texting while driving statewide, according to The Texas Tribune and The Austin Statesman. The proposed bill was approved by a vote of 5-2 by the Senate's State Affairs Committee. But HB-80 was blocked from reaching the Senate floor by 13 state Senators, including Burton. (The Texas Tribune, "Texting Bill's Demise a Victory for Tea Party Freshmen," June 26, 2015) (The Austin Statesman, "Texting-while-driving ban falls short again in Legislature," May 28, 2015)
According to The Texas Tribune, "Burton said she opposed the ban because it would lead to unreasonable searches by police."
"Our police officers cannot discern what someone is doing on their phone, and therefore, can never honestly ticket someone for texting without having to search the phone for a text," Burton said as quoted by The Texas Tribune.
Many cities in Texas have ordinances banning texting while driving, including San Antonio, Austin, Laredo and Denton. But texting while driving is legal in many other big cities in Texas, including Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth, according to The Texas Tribune.
More than 94,000 distraction-related traffic accidents occurred in Texas in 2013, resulting in more than 18,000 serious injuries and 459 deaths, according to state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, who sponsored the defeated texting ban, according to The Texas Tribune.
Zaffirini was frustrated that HB-80 failed to receive enough support for a vote on the state Senate floor. ""We tried everything and worked until the last minute," Zaffirini told The Austin Statesman.
Similar bills banning texting while driving statewide in Texas were defeated in 2011 and 2013, according to The Austin Statesman and The Texas Tribune.
The dangers of texting while driving are well documented, Herrera said. "All we have to do is simply look at the statistics compiled by Senator Zaffirini," Herrera said. "The numbers don't lie. And the longer we wait to take strong legal action and ban texting while driving in Texas, the greater the risk for everyone on the road. Forty-six states nationwide have laws banning texting while driving. Texas needs to do the same. Too many people are being seriously injured and killed in car accidents that could easily be prevented.