Texas senators switch vote to support statewide texting while driving ban

Texting While Driving
FILE - In this file photo, a man uses his cell phone as he drives through traffic. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — The Texas Senate is expected to take up a bill this week that would make texting and driving illegal statewide.

Senate Bill 31 would make it illegal to read, write or send a text message while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.

The bill’s author, Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, says she has been pushing for a texting while driving ban for nearly 10 years. Zaffirini needs the support of 19 senators in order for the bill to come up for a vote in the full senate.

“I changed my mind after looking more in depth at the legislation that we have,” State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, said. “We don’t really have laws that say no texting while driving. I felt like we needed specific legislation there to do that.”

Late last week, Campbell along with two of her senate colleagues who were also opposed to a statewide ban last legislative session, threw their support behind the bill. The new support gives the legislation the 19 votes it needs to move forward.

“My daughter will be driving in a few years,” Campbell said. “I want her to know that texting is illegal. We leave a lot up to the judgment of drivers, but if we can have some kind of uniform non-distracting law that specifically defines no texting while driving, I think it is good for Texas.”

Campbell says she initially opposed the bill because she thought it was an infringement of Texans’ rights. On Monday, her stance was the exact opposite.

“This is not about so much taking away freedom of a person driving within that car, as much as it is protecting all the others on the road,” Campbell said. “Yes, we are trying to look out for the person driving, but also looking at the general welfare of our state.”

State Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, is carrying the bill’s counterpart in the house. His legislation, House Bill 62, passed through the lower chamber in March.

“We’re going to keep going until we get it passed,” Craddick said. “The lieutenant governor has told me he supports it, so I think that we’ve got a pretty good chance.”

House Bill 62 and Senate Bill 31 would create a statewide ban on texting while driving, with a few exceptions. The bills allow drivers to text in emergency situations and they do not include using GPS. Violators could be fined up to $99 for a first offense and a maximum $200 for any offense after that.

Right now Texas is one of four states in the country that don’t have a statewide ban on texting and driving.

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