Texting while driving ban may soon go into effect in Texas

Posted at 12:13 PM, May 22, 2017
and last updated 2018-07-24 21:30:49-04

A bill that bans texting while driving may soon become law in Texas.

House Bill 62 is now headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for approval. If the bill becomes law, this offense is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $99. A second offense would be punishable with a fine of up to $200.

Waco Police Spokesman Sgt. Patrick Swanton said the fines may help deter some drivers from doing it.

"Most people are going to comply because no one wants a ticket but the most important thing is to do out of voluntary compliance because it's something that can keep you or citizens around you safe," Swanton said.

He said distracted driving is a major factor for crashes.

"It can be deadly for you and the other driving or motoring public or even pedestrians walking. It's just important for people to pay attention. You're operating a 1,500 or 2,000 pound rocket on the street doing 30, 40, 70 miles per hour. You need to pay attention what you are doing not what's going on on your Twitter or Facebook account," Swanton said.

Waco Driver Billy Mingo who is in favor of the ban said it should deter some drivers from texting while driving. However, he said for other drivers, it may take getting caught to change their behavior.

"That means now students and every other person will pay attention to what they're doing and that will avoid some accidents," Mingo said.

Arlington Driver John Witherwax who doesn't have strong opinions for or against the ban said he doesn't think it would change from sending a text occasionally while he is behind the wheel.

"If i'm being honest, probably not. It's not something that I feel I do habitually but it happens. You catch yourself doing it even when you know better," Witherwax said.

Both Mingo and Witherwax said they think the ban would be hard to enforce because it may be hard for officers to tell whether someone is texting.

"I think it would be very difficult in the part of police officers to make the call and whether or not they want to stop somebody for suspected texting and where to they draw the line from someone holding their phone to assuming they were doing something like texting," Witherwax said.

Supporters of the bill say texting while driving bans are enforced no different than may other traffic laws. 

If the offense causes the death or seriously bodily of another person, the offense could be a Class A misdemeanor.

To be prosecuted a police officer must have seen the offender texting while driving or there must be evidence to prove it happened. Using your phone as a GPS, reading an email that the person has reason to believe concerned an emergency, and activating a function that plays music are defenses from prosecution.  

If it goes into effect, Swanton said the department would give residents a warning period before it is expected to be enacted.

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