After passing both chambers of the Texas Legislature, a bill to ban texting while driving is now sitting on the Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, and citizens across the state are waiting to see what he does with the legislation.
House Bill 62 by State Rep. Tom Craddick (R-Midland) would make it illegal to text and drive anywhere in the state. Currently, Texas has a “patchwork quilt” of regulations concerning the issue, with many cities adopting regulations on their own. These regulations vary wildly and in the majority of the state cities have declined to regulate the issue.
While many conservatives are opposed to HB 62—viewing the legislation as a do-nothing, nanny-state measure—many were amenable to a compromise that would have preempted all of the various, onerous texting bans and replaced them with a consistent standard across the state.
Craddick and other lawmakers rejected those requests.
If Abbott signs the bill, activities that would fall under the category of illegal while driving would include the use of a cell phone for web browsing, use of social media platforms, and related activities. However, there would be exemptions for an emergency, or to use navigation features on a cellular device.
It is in this grey area that people in opposition of texting while driving legislation have taken up residency, with opponents arguing that police officers’ inability to judge will lead to too much government in the driver seat.
Already some organizations and individuals are calling on Abbott to veto the legislation.
In a statement released after the bill passed, Jonathan Gaspard, policy director for Texas Young Republicans, argued that the law is something Abbott should reject.
“Not only is this an attempt to micromanage adult drivers, but this law would be extremely difficult to enforce, as it would be nearly impossible to prove whether a person potentially in violation was actually using their phone in an illegal manner,” said Gaspard.
“We call on Gov. Abbott to veto this bill the moment it gets to his desk,” he added.
Though he opposed legislation banning texting while driving during his gubernatorial campaign in 2014, Abbott has recently come out saying he does see the necessity for legislation like HB 62 that would potentially curtail distracted driving related accidents.
However, Abbott takes issue with the bill’s failure to address the patchwork of regulations concerning the matter, and cited the necessity for a more clear and universal one—the same issues raised by conservative lawmakers in the Texas House.
All Texans will be keeping close watch on Abbott as he considers whether to sign or veto this legislation.