AUSTIN, Texas - Don't text and drive, that's the rule of the road here in Austin. Tuesday afternoon, those who want a statewide ban on texting and driving held a rally at the Texas Capitol.
The small group that gathered on the south steps was joined by National Safety Council President Deborah Hersman with a big message. They want state lawmakers to support, once again, a statewide ban on texting and driving.
"We have the date and we have the information to do better and now is the time to take action to make those changes," said Hersman.
Among those at the rally was Krista Tankersley. She came to share with lawmakers the heartache of losing her brother Jeff to a distracted driver.
"Texas has been really late in getting to this critical issue, there are 46 other states who have passed this law and had we done this 5 years ago, maybe he would be saved," said Tankersley.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, in 2013, there were 94,943 wrecks in Texas that involved distracted driving. Those crashes resulted in 18,576 serious injuries and 459 deaths. With that in mind legislation for a statewide ban cleared the House Chamber March 26th by a large majority. The measure is currently awaiting action in the Senate.
A city ordinance, outlawing texting and driving in Austin, is already on the books. Police have been writing tickets for two months now. A total of 883 citations have been issued so far by APD. 554 issued in February and 329 have been issued as of March 24th. Those decreasing numbers could reflect a recent study by Texas A&M. According to the report which was announced on Monday, Researchers looked at 19 states with texting bans. It was determined there's been a 7% reduction in hospitalizations from crashes that involved texting. Those at the Tuesday Capitol rally were told, for Texas, a ban could save 90 lives a year.
"I do believe you have to enact a law to keep people from bad behavior this is behavioral issue," said Tankersley.
That argument, during the previous session, resulted in a veto by Governor Rick Perry who described the legislation as micromanaging behavior. Current Governor Greg Abbott says it's premature to say what he will do if this latest attempt at a ban reaches his desk.
The only comprehensive texting ban on the books right now is for interstate commercial truck drivers and all hazmat drivers. There is a move on the federal level to expand that national rule and make it illegal for truckers to even use hands free devices.