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Is Texas on the verge of having a statewide texting ban?

If you feel like you've been hearing a lot about the bane of distracted driving in the past few weeks, you're not imagining things. This is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, so a lot of focus is being placed on this issue.

Here in Texas, the Department of Transportation is continuing its Talk/Text CRASH campaign. We have attempted to contribute to the effort in our own way. Readers may recall an article that we posted some time ago on this subject, and our blog post of last month in which we noted that distractions aren't limited to talking and texting while driving.

Whether it is a coincidence or a matter of political strategy, it's interesting to note that texting and driving is again in the headlights at the State Legislature. Members of the House approved House Bill 80 recently on a vote of 104-39. It's the third time the law has been introduced.

It didn't make it past the governor's desk the first time. The second time, it didn't make it out of committee. With a new governor in office, some wonder if the third time will be the charm.

Proponents say the statistics make the case for reform. According to the DOT, the number of people being killed in distracted driving is steadily on the rise. In 2013 it hit 463. And nearly 20,000 people were seriously injured in distracted driving crashes.

Right now there is a patchwork of local bans in place in 40 cities. If the bill becomes law this time around, it will mean that texting and driving in Texas will be considered a misdemeanor for all drivers statewide. Fines would range from $25 to $200, though stricter penalties that might be in place in local jurisdictions would remain in force. Using mapping applications and talking on a phone would still be allowed.

The measure is now in the hands of the Senate.

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