Statewide Ban on Texting and Driving Faces Stiff Opposition

According to the National Safety Council, cell phone use was involved in roughly 26 percent of all the motor vehicle accidents that occurred on America’s roads in 2013. Some studies have found that driving while distracted by a mobile device can actually be more dangerous than driving drunk. As distracted driving has become an increasingly common cause of car accidents in recent years, many state legislatures have enacted laws that make texting and driving illegal.

In fact, Texas is one of just four states that doesn’t have a statewide ban on texting and driving.

Although many municipalities including the state’s capital have passed their own local bans on texting and driving, the state legislature has failed to pass a statewide ban on three separate occasions. In 2011 a texting and driving ban was approved as an amendment to a bill, but it was vetoed by former Governor Rick Perry who called the ban “a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults.” Then, in 2013, another proposed bill that would fine drivers $100 for texting and driving passed the House, but stalled in the Senate. A revised version of the bill once again passed the House in 2015, but fell one vote short in the Senate.

Another anti-texting bill is slated for a vote 2017, but even its supporters acknowledge that it will likely be an uphill battle in the Senate. While a texting and driving ban has long had widespread support on both sides of the aisle, there are a limited number of staunch opponents in the Senate who could once again prevent the proposed bill from passing. These senators argue that anti-texting bills infringe on the liberties of drivers. Proponents of the bill, meanwhile, argue that concerns about privacy are outweighed by the serious danger posed by texting and driving.

This time around, the bill’s supporters will come armed with a litany of statistics demonstrating the apparent success of texting and driving bans in other states. They will also have a number of important allies, including the Texas Medical Association, Texas Hospital Association, insurance companies and a various law enforcement groups from around the states. But in spite of these apparent advantages, supporters of the bill recognize it could still be stopped dead in its tracks by the Senate’s “Liberty Caucus” which refuses to endorse a texting ban.