Texas ban on distracted driving moving forward

Wednesday, the Texas House preliminarily voted to pass HB 80 outlawing hand-held cellphone use behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.

This is the third time Texas lawmakers have tried to pass a ban on texting behind the wheel. Last session the bill passed in the House and the Senate but Gov. Rick Perry vetoed it.

This comes as the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released data studying the effects of distracted driving on some of the newest drivers on the road- teenagers.

"This is an unprecedented look of videos of distracted driving behavior involving teen drivers. What these videos show is that distracted driving is really a bigger problem than people first realized," said Doug Shupe, senior public affairs official with AAA Texas.

In the study distracted driving was a factor in six out of 10 moderate to severe crashes.

"You see those videos where teens are just looking down for seconds at a time, they're continuing to travel at high rates of speed, they're putting themselves in danger, their passengers in danger as well as everyone else on the roadways," said Shupe.

On average a driver who sends a text message takes their eyes off the road for about four seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that driver travels about the length of a football field.

"Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chance of being involved in a crash. In these videos the teens are taking their eyes off of the road for four seconds, five seconds, even longer in some cases," said Shupe.

Why are teens having such a hard time putting down the phone?

"Because I think people feel like they have enough coordination to hold the wheel and use the other hand to text," said Tierra Fisher who drives in Austin.

"People crash, people get in fender benders, things happen all the time and still people are still stuck to their phones," said Victoria Rivera who also drives in Austin.

Texas lawmakers hope by passing House Bill 80 they will make the roads safer for everyone, including teenagers.

"AAA Texas has supported a statewide ban on texting and driving the past two legislative sessions. We are hopeful that will be a reality here in the State of Texas in the near future," said Shupe.

Not everyone is sold on the idea that the law will change driving behaviors.

"Teenagers, mainly younger people, will do whatever they want to do," said Issec Wilcher who drives in Austin.

"I don't think it's going to stop anyone," said Fisher.

If HB 80 becomes law, violators could be charged with a misdemeanor. That includes a fine up to $99 for a first offense and $200 for any subsequent charge.

There will be a final vote on the bill on the House floor Thursday.


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