The Case for a Statewide Law Regarding Cell Phone Use While Driving
Written by greg on September 28, 2016
Texas is a great state with a rich history and heritage. In many ways, Texas leads the nation and in other ways Texas is way behind the curve. One of the ways Texas is missing the boat is by failing to pass a statewide law relating to cell phone use while driving.
Under the guise of “personal freedoms”, Texas has failed to provide any leadership in protecting families against unnecessary accidents. In the absence of leadership on a statewide level, many cities throughout the state have taken it upon themselves to pass ordinances aimed at protecting people their municipalities.
At last count, there were about 90 individual cities to the state of Texas that had passed ordinances aimed at regulating the dangerous use of cell phones while driving. Unfortunately, these ordinances are not uniform and drivers have no idea of what is illegal driving across the state. Fines can range from $200-$500 for people who violate ordinance they did not probably even know about.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, 20% of the crashes within the state involve driver destruction. The state of Texas does regulate cell phone use for such things as drivers with learners permits, drivers under the age of 18 and use of cell phones while in a school zone but repeatedly Texas has failed to provide any real leadership on the distracted driving problem.
There is no silver bullet to the problem distracted driving with cell phones unless it is a complete prohibition. There is some debate on whether a hands-free device is actually any safer than simply talking on the cell phone. Our own view is that hands-free devices have to be safer than having a cell phone in one hand and the wheel of the car in the other.
Currently, 14 states prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. In those states, an officer may write a citation for a driver seen using a handheld cell phone while driving. 46 other states currently prohibit text messaging for all drivers. Texas falls into one of the four states that fail to prohibit texting while driving for all drivers in all circumstances. This is a failure of leadership on epic proportions.
Why Texas fails to protect families with a statewide ban texting while driving is beyond belief. Most instances of a distracted driving accident that involves a cell phone or texting go undetected by authorities. The problem is much greater than the statistics currently relied upon. Taking your eyes off the highway to deal with your cell phone is a danger that does not have to happen and should be prohibited.
In addition to outlawing texting while driving for all drivers, Texas should require hands-free for any driver finds it necessary to talk while driving outside of a school zone. The smartphone has been on the scene for about 10 years now with the first iPhone released in 2007 and blackberry before that. Almost all US drivers have a smart phone capable of surfing the web, interacting with apps, text messaging and of course calling others. With this change, our society became much more connected and “real-time”.
We also have become somewhat addicted to the instant connectivity that smartphone provides. This translates into a high percentage of car accidents that just did not need to occur and wouldn’t have absent a smartphone.
Regulation of smartphone use is necessary given the huge number of crashes that occur every day in the state of Texas that could have been completely avoided with laws regulating the use by a driver.
Of course, people can choose to violate laws and the fine imposed should be substantial. Finally, as part of any policy designed to protect Texans, a robust advertising and education push should be made in conjunction with a statewide law banning texting while driving and cell phone calls without hands-free.
We urge everyone to contact his or her representative in Austin and demand Texas take action to unify the numerous ordinances across the state of Texas regarding cell phone use when driving.