State Sen. Bob Hall: Senate Bill 1356, A Real Solution to “Texting While Driving”

The following is from an email from Texas SD-2 Senator Bob Hall. I fully agree with SB 1356. Please read his message and respond with your input. Pilots in command and drivers behind the wheel bear responsibility for harm to fellow travelers, whether airborne or zipping down a public thoroughfare. – John White, Rockwall, Texas

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Senate Bill 1356, A Real Solution to “Texting While Driving”

The Texas House has passed and the Senate has considered in committee legislation that would create a misdemeanor offense of using a handheld device to read, write, or send a text-based communication while operating a moving vehicle that is not stopped. Regrettably, the proposed solution will actually increase vehicle accidents.

Distracted driving that results in a vehicle accident (18 percent of all accidents) is a serious problem that needs a serious solution. But research does not support the banning of hand-held electronic devices to solve this issue. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (a premier organization on the issue) has multiple studies that show no decrease in accidents when cell phone bans were implemented. In fact, in many instances, accidents actually increased after the ban. Also, the data shows that prohibiting the use of cell phones has done little to stop the use of cell phones while driving. Banning is not the answer.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2013 show distracted driving accounted for 10 percent of all fatal crashes. Of that 10 percent of accidents, only 14 percent of crashes involved the use of a cell phone. In other words, 86 percent of fatal “distracted driving” accidents were caused by activity other than cell phones which was only 1.5 percent of all accidents.

  • “Distracted driving” is more serious than just cell phone use.
  • Distracted driving includes all distractions.
  • Texting bans do not reduce accidents.
  • 2013 Data:
    • Total injured – 2,213,000 (100 percent)
    • Distracted driving – 424,000 (18 percent)
    • Cell phone use – 34,000 (1.5 percent)

Senate Bill 1356 would provide that any person causing a collision from the operation of a moving motor vehicle commits an offense if the person is engaged in an activity that is not related to the operation of the motor vehicle and interferes with the driver’s ability to pay attention to the road. An offense would be a Class C misdemeanor for minimal damage, or a state jail felony if the collision results in serious bodily injury or death.

The bill would prohibit local authorities from regulating or prohibiting distracted driving, ending the patchwork of regulation we currently have in place. Existing statutes prohibiting the cell phone use by minor drivers and cell phone use in school zones would not be affected.

If we want to improve vehicle safety and reduce the problem of distracted driving, we must address the whole distracted driving issue, not just a fraction of it. An accident caused by a distraction other than cell phone use is no less serious than the one caused by an individual on their cell phone. And, if the statistics are correct, it is much more likely to occur.

That is why I have filed Senate Bill 1356 which would address the reduction of distracted driving accidents by focusing on the punishment of the consequences, rather than the banning of any specific activity. Driving is a serious responsibility and failure to recognize that should be treated seriously.

If you have input on this item, please provide them to my Legislative Director, Kathi Seay.  She can be reached by email at Kathi.Seay@senate.texas.gov or by phone at 512.463.0102.

If you are interested in reading other pending bills and sending any comments to our office, they may be found at http://www.legis.texas.gov/.

As always, I appreciate the opportunity to represent you in the Texas Senate.

Sincerely,

Senator Bob Hall

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