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Texas has limited state texting ban. Will that change in 2015?

There are certain things that aren't supposed to be talked about in polite circles. Religion and politics come to mind as being the ones that are traditionally high on the list. But that doesn't mean political issues go away. And some deserve to be talked about.

That's why we recently chose to make some observations about the status of anti-distracted-driving laws in the state. One of the points made in that piece was the fact that motor vehicle accidents, many of which end up causing deaths, are on the rise in the state.

According to data widely reported in the media, the Texas Department of Transportation estimates that nearly 20 percent of crashes in the state involve drivers who are distracted in one way or another.

Not all of that distraction can be attributed to reckless or negligent cellphone use, but that practice is considered to be on the rise. And while the state government has enacted some minimal statewide legislation in this regard, many cities have gone further. The Texas DOT, citing the Texas Legislative Council, says 40 communities have now passed laws banning texting while driving. Galveston is among them.

The issue is not dead at the capital. Though Gov. Rick Perry vetoed legislation in 2013 that would have instituted a statewide ban on texting, a measure is back on the agenda for the session opening this week. The chief sponsor of the legislation, Republican Rep. Tom Craddick, wrote recently in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the increasing number of fatal motor accidents due to distracted driving can no longer be ignored.

Whether one agrees with that or not, it's fair to ask whether it will make a difference. While Perry is not in office anymore, his successor seems just as opposed to restricting individual driving behavior. Governor-Elect Greg Abbott was widely reported as warning the Texas Public Policy Foundation last week that city-initiated bans form a "patchwork quilt of bans and rules and regulations that is eroding the Texas model" of individual liberty.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Abbott attacks local regulations as state leaders unveil legislative priorities," Mike Ward and Peggy Fikac, Jan. 9, 2015

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