The Texas House on Wednesday once again passed a bill to ban texting while driving throughout Texas, but the governor seems poised to smack it down before it can become law — just like he did two years ago.
For the second session in a row, state Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, proposed a statewide ban on texting while driving, which Austin and about two dozen cities already ban. The House gave preliminary approval to the measure with a vote of 98-47. Support was not as broad as in 2011, when the vote was 124-16.
Craddick’s House Bill 63 says a driver would face a misdemeanor charge punishable by a fine not to exceed $100 if he or she uses a wireless communications device to text, except in case of emergency, while driving.
“It’s about public safety and saving lives,” Craddick said during the House debate.
Craddick’s bill allows for other uses of phones while driving. It establishes a defense to prosecution if a driver uses a phone to select or enter a telephone number. It also OKs voice-operated technology and hands-free devices and the use of global positioning systems on phones.
Twenty-six Texas cities have laws against texting while driving, but Craddick’s proposal would create a uniform ban.
Josh Havens, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry, said in a statement that the governor believes texting while driving is “reckless and irresponsible.”
“However, the key to dissuading drivers from texting while driving is information and education, not government micromanagement,” Havens said.
Asked if Perry would use his veto power again — like he did in 2011 — to prevent Craddick’s bill from becoming law, Havens wrote: “The governor will thoroughly review any bill that makes it through the legislative process and onto his desk.”
Craddick said a statewide ban is needed because people who text while driving are 23 times more likely to have a crash, and texting while driving is five times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated, Craddick said.
Craddick told House members that he voted against a seatbelt bill in the 1980s.
“I’m very sorry I did that,” he said.
The former House speaker warned his colleagues about creating similar regrets by rejecting H.B. 63.
Several members of both parties argued with Craddick about the bill.
Critics of the bill said a ban on texting while driving would make it too easy for police officers to pull over Texans.
Most of the conservative freshmen in the House voted en bloc against Craddick’s bill.
State Rep. Matt Krause, a tea party-backed Republican from Fort Worth, opposed the bill in part out of civil libertarian concerns, he said.
But there also is a lack of credible evidence showing the effectiveness of texting-while-driving bans, Krause and others said.
The freshman pointed to a study by the research arm of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit insurance industry-funded group, that showed a lack of correlation between a reduction in crashes and texting-while-driving bans.
“I’m not sure this bill is going to alleviate the problem of people texting and driving,” Krause said. “I just don’t think it’ll be effective.”
Craddick’s bill needs a final, perfunctory vote in the House and approval of the Senate before Perry can consider it.