Texas House approves ban on texting while driving

March 15, 2017
State Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, speaks Wednesday on his bill that would ban texting while driving statewide, while other legislators wait in line to take the podium.

Once again, the Texas House has given preliminary approval to a statewide ban on texting while driving. And once again, it faces an uphill battle to become law.

Preventing Texas drivers from using their cell phones behind the wheel has been a priority of state Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, since 2009.

In a 113-32 vote, the House on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to Craddick’s House Bill 62. The effort faces an uncertain future in the Senate because of opposition from conservatives who see the ban as a way to limit drivers’ freedom.

Craddick pitched the bill as a commonsense public safety measure. “It’s the major cause of accidents and deaths in this country and in this state,” he said.

A Senate committee on Monday approved Senate Bill 31, an identical measure, by a 6-3 vote.

The bill would assess a $99 fine on first-time offenders and a $200 fine on repeat offenses.

Craddick’s previous attempts have been defeated in various ways. Last session, the bill passed the House but did not have enough support to come up for a vote in the Senate. In 2011, it passed both chambers only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Rick Perry.

Forty-six states have banned texting while driving, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.

Using a cell phone while driving is also banned in Austin, among other Texas cities.