Op-Ed from the office of Senator Carlos Uresti

September 29, 2010
Mark Langford at 210-932-2568

Legislature should give thumbs up to texting while driving ban

By Sen. Carlos Uresti

San Antonio has now joined Austin and El Paso as the only major cities in Texas to enact a ban on texting while driving. It was a smart move to address a growing problem in our cell-phone society, but a patchwork of local rules isn't enough.

In the next session of the Legislature I intend to carry a bill that imposes a statewide ban on texting while driving. Some two-dozen other states have passed such a law, and it's time for Texas to join them.

According to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, some 5,500 traffic deaths nationwide last year were caused by distracted driving, which includes texting. And as we all know, our phones offer other distractions as well – You Tube, Internet surfing, Facebook, email and more.

When a driver's attention strays from the road ahead, it only takes a moment for tragedy to strike. In fact, studies have shown that texting while driving is comparable to driving while intoxicated.

With all of the resources we've aligned against DUI and the mayhem it causes on our streets and highways, why should drivers be allowed to engage in a practice that's just as dangerous? The simple answer is, 'we shouldn't.'

Surveys show that people are already aware of the danger presented by texting while driving, but many do it anyway. It's not a matter of public education, but one of strict enforcement. It worked that way with seat belt usage, which nationally is up to 85 percent, and it can work with texting as well.

Cell phone technology is truly amazing. It allows virtually unlimited communication and recreational opportunities away from the confines of the office and home. But not when we're in the driver's seat.

San Antonio should be commended for taking this step, but let's not forget that nearby Universal City beat us to the punch. Police there began enforcing its anti-texting ordinance four days before the San Antonio City Council took its vote last Thursday. It wasn't a hard decision for either council.

"How can you possibly text and have a hand on the wheel when you're driving?" Universal City Mayor John Williams told the San Antonio Express-News. "I'm very proud of the council for making the decision. I haven't heard a single complaint."

It's never that easy in the Texas Legislature, but I anticipate widespread support for such a common-sense approach to traffic safety. I believe most of my colleagues will agree it's time for a state law that will encourage Texas drivers to keep their eyes on the road and their thumbs on the wheel.