AUSTIN (AP) – Texans believe texting and talking on phones while driving is getting worse and that roads are less safe than they were five years ago, despite declines in accident deaths.
A survey by the Texas Transportation Institute found that 52 percent of Texas drivers would support a law banning mobile phone use while driving. Up to 85 percent say texting or talking while driving is worse than it was five years ago.
The survey of 1,167 licensed drivers was conducted at 10 driver license stations operated by the Texas Department of Public Safety in September and October.
“People feel threatened” by drivers talking or texting on the road, said Bernie Fette, senior research specialist for the Texas Transportation Institute.
Although roadway deaths are down about 17 percent over the last five years — from 3,699 in 2004 to 3,089 in 2009 — more than a third of Texas drivers think the roads are less safe, the survey found. And 60 percent of those surveyed said aggressive driving has gotten worse.
The survey did not quiz drivers about their own driving behavior, but “people seem to be more mindful and concerned about the riskier behavior they see and are less likely to tolerate it,” Fette said.
Texas lawmakers convene the 2011 legislative session in January. Several bills to ban or limit wireless phone use while driving already have been filed.
One by Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, would ban texting, instant messaging and e-mailing while driving.
Another would ban talking on the phone while driving unless the driver uses a hands-free device. Another would toughen penalties for drivers who violate the existing ban on phone use in a school zone.
The survey also found that 48 percent favor using cameras to ticket drivers who run red lights, compared with 36 percent who oppose it.
Houston residents recently voted to turn off the city’s red-light cameras, about four years after they were first activated.
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