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Lawmaker: Consideration of texting while driving ban likely
[January 09, 2011]

Lawmaker: Consideration of texting while driving ban likely

Jan 09, 2011 (El Paso Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Texas legislators will consider at least four bills this session that would ban texting with hand-held cell phones while driving throughout the state.

State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, has served on the House Transportation Committee, and because of that, he got to review the previous legislative proposals.

"I see a high possibility of a bill making it that bans cell-phone texting while driving," Pickett said. "The Legislature had a hard time getting something through before because of objections over unfunded mandates.

"Even the ban of hand-held cell-phone use in school zones barely made it through." Pickett agreed that proposals aimed at driving while holding and talking or texting on cell phones reflect attempts at passing laws that keep pace with technology, as well as addressing the unintended consequences of emerging technology.

"We are with cell phones where we were before with the early DWI laws," Pickett said. "The testimony we've had related to accidents and cell phones involved tragic cases. The discussion on this issue has begun to focus on the loss of life." According to, Texas legislators have proposed the following distracted-driving bills: --Senate Bill 46: Would prohibit drivers from using wireless communication devices to read, write or send a text-based communication, including e-mail. (Sen. Judith Zaffirini) --SB 119: Would outlaw the use of hand-held wireless devices to read, send or compose text messages. (Sen. Carlos Uresti) --House Bill 103: Would ban drivers from using wireless communication devices to read, write or send a text message while driving. It includes increased penalties of up to $400 if the activity occurs in a school zone. (Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer) --HB 243: Would ban text-messaging for all drivers, including instant messaging and e-mail. (Rep. Tom Craddick) The site provides information about the status of legislation and wireless devices. It is also devoted to reducing the number of distracted-driver accidents by promoting the use of hands-free cell phone devices.

Officials at the Texas Department of Public Safety, which enforces statewide traffic laws, said they cannot comment on pending legislation.

"However, we always encourage drivers not to drive distracted," DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange said.

"Distracted driving can include all sorts of things." Driver inattention is one of the leading causes of road accidents, according to highway safety reports.

In Texas, four groups of drivers currently are prohibited from using hand-held cell phones while driving: people with a learner's permit in the first six months of driving, drivers under 17 years of age with restricted licenses, drivers in school zones, and school bus operators when children are in the bus.

El Paso is one of several cities in the state that have adopted ordinances against driving while using a hand-held cell phone. The city adopted the ban last March, and began applying citations with fines in May, after giving the public a month to get used to the new ordinance.

Motorists can be fined $148 for violating the ban within the city limits.

Between May 2010 and Dec. 17, El Paso police handed out 4,356 citations for driving while using a hand-held cell phone, police spokesman Detective Mike Baranyay said.

Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at [email protected]; 546-6140.

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