WASHINGTON, June 6 -- Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety issued the following statement by President Jackie Gillan, on enactment of the texting while driving ban in Texas:
Today, Texas Governor Abbott signed into law HB 62, a primary enforcement ban on texting while driving. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) congratulates Governor Abbott, the House and Senate bill sponsors and the Members of the Legislature who worked tirelessly this session to enact this lifesaving law. This is a significant step in our efforts to reduce distracted driving. Distracted driving has become a constant threat to the safety of everyone using Texas roads including motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. This law will give Texas law enforcement a necessary tool to stop this dangerous and often deadly behavior.
The Texas Department of Transportation reported that distracted driving-involved crashes resulted in more than one fatality every day, on average, for a total of 476 preventable deaths in 2015. More than 100,000 traffic crashes each year involve distracted driving in Texas. According to a 2015 survey conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, over 20 percent of drivers admitted to reading or sending text messages or emails when behind the wheel.
This commonsense law will improve safety on Texas roads by prohibiting drivers from using wireless communication devices to read, write or send messages, including text messages, while operating a motor vehicle. The prior state law only applied to drivers in school crossing zones and on public school property during the time the speed limit was reduced, to bus drivers with minors as passengers, and to drivers younger than age 18. The new law will also unify the patchwork of school zone and local texting bans which rendered enforcement to be unnecessarily challenging.
Advocates greatly appreciates the dedication and hard work of the bill sponsors, Senator Judith Zaffirini (D) and Representative Tom Craddick (R). Both were determined and dedicated to enact a distracted driving bill this session. Passage of HB 62 was also supported by victim advocates as well as numerous public health and safety groups, insurance companies and others who were involved in this successful effort. Families traveling on Texas roads will be safer thanks to Governor Abbott, the Texas Legislature and all the individuals and organizations that fought for this safety law and were committed to preventing crashes and saving lives.