Texas Governor Signs Texting While Driving Ban Into Law

Texting while driving will soon be illegal in Texas.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the ban into law Tuesday, ending a decade-long effort by safety advocates to reduce potentially deadly driver distractions on the road.

Texas will become one of the last states to adopt some kind of texting while driving ban when the law takes effect Sept. 1.

Texting would be punishable by a fine of up to $99 for first-time offenders and $200 for repeat offenses.

Dozens of Texas cities already ban texting while driving.

The state law covers texting only and prohibits the use of hand-held phones to "read write or send an electronic message" while driving.

Other Internet use for navigation or music programs is allowed.

Abbott said Tuesday that when lawmakers meet in special session in July and August, he wants them to pass a state law that will roll back any local ordinances that ban mobile device use beyond texting while driving.

"We don't need a patchwork of regulations," across the state, Abbott said.

Safety advocates have been pressing for the texting ban for years.

Lawmakers passed a ban in 2011, only to see it vetoed by then-Gov. Rick Perry.

The issue gained new momentum after a March church bus crash killed 13 people. Federal investigators have said the driver of a pickup truck that hit the bus said he was checking for a text when the crash happened and had taken prescription drugs.

Some lawmakers have worried the ban will be difficult and confusing to enforce, and will give police new powers to pull over people who might be doing something legal if they mistake the presence of a phone or mobile device for texting.

"I tell my kids all the time don't do it, is it that important to wait to get to your next destination. I'm guilty myself of looking at my phone, you know, if someone texts me or 'who's trying to call me,' or whatever, and I think we all need to reevaluate how important it truly is to be on our phones when we're driving," said driver Amy Brace.

Driver Misbah Vency said a friend of hers was paralyzed from the waist down in a texting while driving crash in the DFW area.

"I advocate for no texting and driving, because anything can happen. One accident changed her whole life and changed some of ours, too," Vency said.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation in 2016 there were nearly 110,000 traffic crashes involving distracted driving. That's up three percent over the previous year.

More than 450 people died, and about 3,000 others had serious injuries as a result.

TxDOT says the crashes were highest among drivers between the ages of 16 and 34.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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