Texas House Passes Ban On Texting While Driving

AUSTIN (AP) – Driving while sending texts or email messages from a cellphone would become a crime under a bill that passed the Texas House on Thursday.

Reading messages would still be legal. The last-minute change making an exception for drivers who look at or read text messages gave voice to opponents who thought the measure was a slap at basic freedom and an invitation to police to harass drivers.

Rep. Larry Taylor, R-League City, who won passage of the modification, said the bill as originally drafted went too far.

“Just looking down briefly at your phone — I don’t want to be pulled over as a criminal or breaking the law,” Taylor said. “The actual act of typing up a message and sending it to somebody else is very dangerous. I have no disagreement with that.”

About 30 states and many municipalities, including San Antonio and El Paso, already have laws that limit texting while driving.

Rep. Tom Craddick, a former Republican House speaker from Midland, sponsored the bill and tried to fight off the amendment making it less stringent. But he said after the vote that it would still curb the activity that is most hazardous.

“I think the main problem is the people with their hands off the wheel,” Craddick said.

It’s already against the law in Texas to use a cellphone in a school zone, and people under age 18 can’t use a phone at all while driving. Studies have shown that texting while driving is the equivalent of having a 1.6 blood-alcohol level.

Under the bill adopted Thursday, police could fine texting motorists up to $200. People could still press buttons allowing them to answer phones and could operate voice-activated devices that allow them to send messages.

The bill, which passed on a 124-16 vote, faces a final procedural hurdle and is expected to move to the Senate.

Debate over the legislation sparked often humorous exchanges between opponents and backers of the texting ban. After he introduced the amendment, Taylor was asked how much time he spent reading text messages in his car. He said he frequently got short messages on his phone, such as “love ya,” and “you’re the best.”

Rep. Dennis Bonnen, a Houston-area Republican who was presiding over the debate at the time, jokingly admonished Taylor: “You’re under oath, even on the floor, Mr. Taylor.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • AngryRider

    As a daily motorcycle rider, I hope this is enforced with harsh punishments. Im sick and tired of almost being murdered by you careless drivers who think your phone call/txt is more important than my life.

    • wyatt

      Do you want some cheese with that whine? You sound like a little girl instead of A BIG BAD BIKER. Cowboy up.

      • WyattTheRedneck

        Who said anything about being a big bad biker? So lets get this right. Motorcycles should run off the road or wreck to make sure that drivers who are not paying attention to driving can swerve as they please? Thanks for your comment though, it shows how ignorant you really are. Dont you have nascar to watch while you beat your wife? Get back in the trailer bubba.

      • rubbercow

        You should really stf up, wyatt. You have no idea how much of an issue this is with bikers. By the way, there are a lot of bikers who are just trying to do the responsible thing by using a mode of transportation that is way easier on the environment. Not all of us are trying to be BIG BAD BIKERs – m0r0n.

  • Matt

    Same goes both ways broham… I’m sick of motorcycle drivers thinking they can go as fast as they want and weave in and out of traffic. You may not run anyone off the road but you will cause the person behind the guy you cut off or splitlaned to be in the ditch. So EVERYONE stay off your phones and go the speed limit. #DontThinkYourSpeical

    • Laila

      I def agree Matt!

  • BIGD

    Finally, another law….. that is totally worthless to mexicans and blacks……and not to mention lawyers…bundle them together ….and you get nothing!!!!!!!!!!

  • les

    how are they going to enforce this !!!!??? this is just another waste of time and money

  • Susan

    Powerful video on the consequences of texting while driving…http://youtu.be/wV3Ib3S2DJQ

  • Rick McDaniel

    Enforcement, will be impossible. No one will obey that law, and law enforcement has no chance of enforcing it.

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