Law Offices of Tim Powers, Denton
Whether drivers are inching along Interstate 35 going toward downtown or
driving through the UNT campus, it’s a common sight to find those
who consider their smartphones more interesting than paying attention
to the road. All it takes is one second to miss a sudden stop, merger
or a wreck happening in front drivers and their cars to become a statistic.
Texting and driving may not seem as dangerous as drinking and driving,
but it has become harmful enough for state legislatiors to pass a ban
on texting while driving and enough to make drivers think twice before
doodling with their phones.
The Texas House of Representatives has devised a rare, bipartisan bill
that would make that happen, yet Gov. Rick Perry won’t budge.
HB 63, a bill that makes it illegal to text and drive, is inching closer
to the House floor for a vote. After years of trying to pass a state-wide
ban, it might finally come to fruition and save countless lives. If enacted,
reading, writing or sending text messages from a handheld device —
be it a phone, tablet or notebook — is punishable by a fine up to
$100 and up to $200 on a subsequent offense.
Political science senior Tyler Albarado said the law could help but is
skeptical of how many drivers will conform.
“I can see its good and bad points, but I don’t think it’s
going to stop anybody,” Albarado said.
The same applies to DWI laws; however, lawmakers saw the merit in punishing
those who drove while drunk in 2011 and in punishing those who get behind
the wheel and text without any consideration for other drivers. At that
time, the state Congress passed HB 242 and sent it to Perry’s office,
where he vetoed it.
Perry released a statement on the veto, which can be seen on texastribune.org,
on June 17, 2011.
“I support measures that make our roads safer for everyone, but House
Bill 242 is a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults,”
“Current law already prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from texting
or using a cell phone while driving. I believe there is a distinction
between the overreach of House Bill 242, and the government’s legitimate
role in establishing laws for teenage drivers who are more easily distracted
and laws providing further protection to children in school zones.”
That was two years ago and nothing has changed. A bill is being presented
to the governor to create a statewide standard on banning texting while
driving, and the governor is being as obstinate as ever.
Lucy Nasheed, spokesperson for Perry, released a statement to statesman.com
on Feb. 26 reaffirming the governor’s belief that education and
not legislation should be the key to stopping adults from texting and driving.
“Gov. Perry continues to believe texting while driving is reckless
and irresponsible, and as he noted last session, current law already prohibits
drivers under the age of 18 from texting or using a cell phone while driving,”
“The key to dissuading drivers from texting while driving is information
and education, not government micromanagement.”
Unlike last time, however, Perry is in the minority opinion this time because
Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, the author of the bill, has heralded HB
63 as “the big bipartisan bill of the session.” It has 27
sponsors with considerable representation from both parties.
According to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Insurance Solutions, of
the 3,048 traffic fatalities statewide in 2011, 13.4 percent — equivalent
to around 408 deaths — were because of “distracted driving.”
Legislation like this could force drivers to think twice about fiddling
with their phones, saving their lives. It could even save the drivers
of other cars who would otherwise have to pay the price for the other
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association Statesman, at least
39 states and Washington D.C. have banned texting and driving. Mayor Annise
Parker has even promised to back an ordinance in Houston if HB 63 fails
or is vetoed.
Laws are meant to curb the dangerous behaviors of its citizens, so for
Perry to say that a law such as this is a “government overreach”
is a complete farce. For example, it’s against the law to do certain
drugs because it hurts public health, regardless of whether the individual
or even the public wants to do them. Laws limiting speed are a “government
overreach” because they also “micromanage the behaviors of
adults,” forcing drivers to drive at safe speeds, despite the fact
no one wants to when they have some place they urgently need to be. It’s
a slippery slope and a very libertarian argument that Perry makes according
to Tim Powers a former criminal justice professor at the University of
North Texas, criminal defense attorney and analyst for Fox News.
Perry is only right one regard: Education and information about the issue
are important. However, it must be followed up by a consequence. A person
is more likely to think twice about texting and driving if they know that
reading a text will cause them to have to cough up a Benjamin or two.
If you are seeking aggressive criminal representation by an experienced
criminal defense attorney for your Denton County case or arrest in Denton
County, contact the offices of Tim Powers today. There is no charge or
obligation for the initial consultation.940.580.2899
*Tim Powers is an attorney licensed to practice law by the Supreme Court
of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For
legal advice about any specific legal question you should directly consult
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