A statewide ban on texting while driving was unanimously approved Monday by the Senate Committee on State Affairs and is now headed to the full Texas Senate.
“Driving is a privilege, not a right, and it is the Legislature’s responsibility to ensure that Texans enjoy their right to safety while using Texas roads without fear of or danger from those who wrongly believe they have a right to drive irresponsibly,” the bill’s author, Democratic state Sen. Judith Zaffirini of Laredo, said.
“When we first started working on this, I was a ‘no,’ and then I almost had a terrible wreck,” state Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) said. “I know we all spend a lot of time on the road, but I literally saw a guy the other day, I passed him on I-35, and he had a book on his steering wheel and he was reading a book.”
A companion bill won unanimous approval in a House committee last week.
This is the fourth consecutive legislative session with a bill to outlaw texting while driving. State Rep. Tom Craddick has been filing legislation in the House since 2011. That year it passed both chambers, only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Rick Perry, who called it an infringement on personal liberty.
Since then, most states have enacted laws against texting while driving.
“It’s kind of gotten to the point of ridiculousness,” Craddick said last week. “Out of the states in the United States, when we tried to do this and the governor vetoed it the first time, we were the ninth state that was working on it. Today, there are only four states that don’t have it.”
He added that Congress is considering a nationwide ban on texting while driving.
Austin is one of more than 100 Texas cities that already either ban texting while driving or have an ordinance requiring hands-free use of mobile devices.