Jim Adler | The Tough, Smart Lawyer
By Jim Adler August 25, 2014

Gov. Rick Perry’s vetoes are all that’s kept Texas from having a state law banning texting while driving, a virtual addiction that’s killed and injured thousands. But many Texas cities have acted where the state has failed to do so — and one may be taking things even farther.

San Antonio has had an ordinance banning texting while driving since 2010. But with one in five Texas crashes caused by distracted drivers, the Alamo City is considering a change to ban all cellphone use while driving, thanks to Councilman Mike Gallagher (R).

As he sees it, if such a law “saves one life, it’s worth it.”

San Antonio’s current no-texting law is limited, since officers can’t tell if a driver is texting, which is illegal, or dialing a phone number, which is legal. Extending the ban would make the law easier to enforce.

Gallagher’s proposal would allow using a cell phone only in a hands-free mode, unless it was an emergency.

Texas is one of just five states lacking a law to ban texting while driving. The next step is to ban all hand-held cellphone use while driving, which 14 states have done so far.

In Texas, it’s up to the cities, and at least 28 ban texting while driving. They also include Austin, El Paso, Corpus Christi and Amarillo. As for a wider ban on all cell use while driving, Austin, like San Antonio, is considering that.

In North Texas, Denton, Arlington and Grand Prairie have laws banning texting while driving, but Dallas and Fort Worth do not. In Southeast Texas, Houston lacks such a law, but Bellaire and West University Place have one. And there’s support in Houston to get a no-texting law for drivers on the books.

Texas’ only state ban on texting while driving pertains to texting by anyone in school zones, texting by motorists who are under 18 or texting by bus drivers who carry children under 17.

That emphasis on protecting kids is nice, but aren’t kids also riding in the cars hit by legally texting drivers who run red lights and stop signs while sending needless “LOL” messages?

Clearly, we must broaden our perspective. For most of a century people drove cars without talking on the phone or sending text messages — and the world kept spinning. Plus, so much of today’s texting or talking at the wheel is routine indulgence which can wait.

So get with it, Texas. Distracted driving kills. As one public service campaign has so aptly put it, “If you’re texting, you’re not driving.”

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