Pre-filing for the 82nd Texas Legislature is in full swing, with over 370 bills already filed since the Nov. 8 kick-off. Let the craziness officially begin.
One of the most controversial bills that will receive consideration when the session kicks off at noon January 11, 2011, will govern cell phone usage in a moving vehicle. Already four members of the Texas House and two members of the Texas Senate have jumped in with proposals to penalize drivers using wireless devices while behind the wheel.
This is one bill we should expect action on.
Already, several Texas cities and municipalities have some kind of ban on using wireless devices while driving. San Antonio's ban on texting and driving went into effect Oct. 15 of this year. The ordinance allows drivers to make calls on a cell phone, but no texting or using a web browser or email. Missouri city has a similar ban. Galveston has banned text messaging while driving within its city limits. El Paso has gone even further, prohibiting texting and talking on a cell phone while driving within its city limits.
The state has already taken its first steps down this road. Already on the books are laws that prohibit holders of learners permits from using handheld cell phones in the first six months of driving and a ban on drivers under the age of 17 with restricted licenses from using wireless communications devices.
The problem for legislators will be convincing the public that such laws are needed in Texas. We live in a freedom-loving state, and with many people having hour-long or longer commutes from work to home, cell phones have become essential - both in personal lives and in the business community. Any ban on cell phone usage is not going to be popular with the masses.
And you can bet the wireless communication lobby will be working overtime to stop any bills. Communication is the key industry of today and tomorrow. The industry will not stay on the sideline on this vote.
The argument for such bans, however, is just as strong. The National Safety Council estimates that cell phone uses increases the risk of a vehicle crash fourfold andd that more than 1 million wrecks a year nationwide can be attributed to that distraction.
The most sensible outcome would be a ban on texting while driving and perhaps a law that enforces hands-free communication while driving. But when the Texas Legislature meets, all bets are off.
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