'Texting while driving' bills hover in Texas legislature

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by Gabe Gutierrez / 11 News

khou

Posted on March 30, 2011 at 10:02 AM

HOUSTON – Texas lawmakers are considering whether to ban texting while driving across the state.

At least 10 bills have been filed in Austin. Senate Bill 138 would ban texting while driving, except with a hands-free device. House Bill 93 lays out a penalty -- up to $200. House Bill 103 would double that fine in a school zone.

But the bills seem to be falling flat with lawmakers. Phone company lobbyists could be one reason. Public disinterest could be another.

"When you look at public opinion polling, they support limitations on people using phones in cars,” said KHOU 11 News Political Expert Bob Stein. “Yet when you ask voters -- and for that matter, the general public -- 'Do you do that? Well, of course I do. But I'm a safe driver.'"

In other words, Stein says the public seems to like bans on texting while driving – except when it’s adopted in their neighborhood.

Another problem is enforcement.

In the Houston area, at least six cities – Conroe, Missouri City, West University Place, Bellaire, Alvin and Galveston have banned texting while driving recently.

Missouri City's ban took effect last June. But so far, police there say they've only issued five citations.

In Galveston, only 11 have been issued, according to city spokesperson Alicia Cahill.

How about West University Place?

"We've issued none,” said Capt. Thad Olive. “Which is also a good thing. People are aware of our texting ordinance. Obviously, when they see a police officer, they're going to put the phone down."

Even if the texting while driving bills fall through, there's another bill that would ban texting while legislating.

House Bill 2977 would ban any public official from sending texts or emails during open meetings.

Not surprisingly, lawmakers aren't rushing to pass that bill either.

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