Is 4th time the charm for statewide ban of texting while driving bill?

FILE - Person using a cellphone while driving (KXAN FILE Photo)
FILE - Person using a cellphone while driving (KXAN FILE Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – For the last three Texas legislative sessions, two lawmakers have been pushing for a statewide ban on texting while driving. They’re trying again this year after their proposed bill has failed every time.

Senator Judith Zaffirini and Representative Tom Craddick have filed Senate Bill 31 and House Bill 62, identical bills in each chamber that will make texting while driving a crime across the state.

The act is already banned in more than 90 cities across the state.

In previous filings, the bill proposed a ban on all text-based communication, including SMS, email, instant messaging, Facebook and Twitter, unless the vehicle is stopped and out of the “lane of travel. Exceptions include dialing a call, using a GPS, or if the text-based communication is done using a hands-free device.

“We cannot legislate stupidity. Everyone knows it’s unsafe to do it,” said Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, who was against the ban in 2015.

The bill allows police to pull over motorists they suspect are using a wireless device to read, write or send a text message while driving, unless the vehicle is stopped. Offenders would be fined up to $99 for a first offense and a maximum $200 for subsequent ones.

In 2015, distracted driving crashes killed 482 people in Texas, or one person approximately every 18 hours. In Austin, 4,148 traffic crashes were related to distracted driving in 2015.

Craddick and Zaffirini are expected to hold a press conference on Thursday surrounded by victims of distracted driving and will brief other lawmakers on their bills.

Police in Austin hand out close to 7,000 distracted driving tickets every year. Each ticket carries a fine between $200 and $500.

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