2011-06-23 / Front Page

Proposed texting law not approved

BY DON TREUL Editor


As demonstrated by volunteer Amanda Watkins (above), drivers can be distracted while texting. Her vehicle was not moving for safety reasons, but statistics reveal that divers who are texting in moving vehicles can and have created hazards to other vehicles and pedestrians using roadways in Texas and Smith County. 
Leader Staff Photo/Don Treul As demonstrated by volunteer Amanda Watkins (above), drivers can be distracted while texting. Her vehicle was not moving for safety reasons, but statistics reveal that divers who are texting in moving vehicles can and have created hazards to other vehicles and pedestrians using roadways in Texas and Smith County. Leader Staff Photo/Don Treul Despite the fact that more than one person in the East Texas area died within the last year or two in car wrecks while the driver was texting or receiving a text, and that statistics reveal an ever-increasing danger associated with the habit, Gov. Rick Perry did not approve a measure passed by the 82nd Texas Legislature that would have banned sending or reading e-mails, texts or instant messages while driving in Texas.

If House Bill 242 had become law, texting and e-mailing while driving in Texas would have been considered a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $200 and up to 30 days in jail. Under the proposed law, if a driver who was texting or e-mailing caused a crash with serious injuries or deaths, he or she could have been guilty of a Class B misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

That will not happen for now as Perry suggested that the law was a means of government “micro-managing” the lives of adults in Texas.

According to estimates from the Texas Department of Transportation, cell phone use caused 3,308 crashes and 41 deaths in Texas in 2009. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identifies cell phone use as one of many “distracted driving” activities, and that cell phone use was responsi- ble for 20 percent of U.S. traffic deaths in 2009, up from 10 percent in 2005.

The danger was not lost on some area residents.

Carson Clark is 18 and will be a senior at Troup High School in August.

“I think it’s a bad habit for people of all ages, not just teenagers,” he said of texting while driving. “I agreed with the (proposed) law. Obviously, it’s hard to operate a vehicle while you’re texting.”

Kate Mohr, the 2011 Whitehouse High School valedictorian who graduated in May concurs with Clark.

“I am all in favor of the law. For me, trying to concentrate on too many things while I am in the driver’s seat distracts me from the most important thing – driving,” Mohr said. “It (the proposed law) would (have created) safer roads with more focused drivers. Really, nothing is so important that I have to text or e-mail while I am driving; if it’s that crucial, I’ll pull over where I can figure it out safely.”

Mohr admits it is hard not to respond to texts sent while she is driving.

“If my phone goes off while I am driving, it is so tempting to just answer it. But cell phones are designed for the convenience of the owner, and it is not a convenient time for me to answer the phone if I am behind the wheel,” she said. “Whatever it is can wait until I get to where I am going.”

Whitehouse Police Chief Rick Waller said texting is one of many distractions for drivers.

“I think anything you do that takes your concentration away from your driving is dangerous,” he said. “I’m in favor of it (the proposed law) and I think it (would have been) an excellent law. It (would) be difficult to enforce it.”

Waller said people should pull over to a safe spot before texting or to care for anything that is a distraction.

“Anything that reduces your ability to drive safely is dangerous,” he added.

Jessica Sibbing, 20, is a Whitehouse 2011 YesterYear Lady in Waiting and a graduate of Whitehouse High School. She also agrees the proposed law will benefit citizens.

“It’s dangerous,” she said of texting while driving. “With these Smart phones you can’t be paying attention (to driving). I’ll look to see if someone is texting me, but I won’t text back.

While it is generally agreed that texting while driving is dangerous, more and more studies are providing statistics to prove the facts. For example, a study by Virginia Tech Driving Institute revealed that those who resort to texting while driving are 23 time more likely to meet with an accident. A comparative study of texting while driving vs drunk driving statistics published in a leading car magazine in the United States revealed that texting while driving is even more dangerous than drunk driving.

Law enforcement officers have been aware of the facts for some time, including Troup Police Chief Pat Hendrix.

“I think the law (would have been) a good start,” he said. “It’s (would have been) hard to enforce due to the fact that you can still read your texted messages, just not send them. But if this (proposed) law saved just one life, it’s worth it.”

Studies reveal that a person who is texting while driving at the speed of 35 mph will cover 25 feet before bringing the car to complete halt as compared to a distance of four feet which a drunk driver would cover at the same speed.

According to the texting while driving death statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5,870 people died in car crashes in 2008 alone. The same statistics revealed that 515,000 people were injured in various car crashes in the United States.

Around 28 percent of all crashes in 2008 were caused by drivers in the age group of 18 and 29, who admitted to texting while driving. The popular belief, that the number of teenagers texting while driving is more as compared to adults, got a major blow when the texting while driving statistics 2010 compiled by Pew Research Center revealed that 47 percent of the adults resort to texting as compared to 34 percent of the teenagers.

The same statistics revealed that 75 percent of the adults resort to phone conversation while driving as compared to 52 percent of the teenagers.

Return to top