Texas House approves statewide texting-and-driving ban

News 6 pushing for stricter texting and driving laws in Florida

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

AUSTIN, Texas - Texas lawmakers approved a statewide ban on texting while driving Wednesday after efforts in previous years have fizzled out or were vetoed.

In Florida, News 6 is pushing to make distracted driving a primary offense statewide.

The latest proposal overwhelmingly won preliminary approval Wednesday in the Texas House. Former Republican House speaker Tom Craddick is carrying the bill for a fourth consecutive session. Laws banning texting while driving are already in place in dozens of Texas cities and in all but four states. The bill would prohibit the use of handheld phones to "read, write or send an electronic message" while driving.

If the bill becomes law , offenders would be charged with a misdemeanor and be fined $25 to $99. Repeat offenders would have to pay between $100 and $200 in fines, according to the Texas Tribune.

The bill now goes to the Senate. A similar proposal cleared the Legislature in 2011 but was vetoed by former Gov. Rick Perry, who called it a "government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults."

News 6 has been advocating for stricter texting-and-driving laws in Florida after anchor Matt Austin was seriously injured in a crash with a distracted driver six months ago.

States that enforced texting as a primary offense benefited, according to a 2003-2010 American Journal of Public Health study.

In Florida, distracted driving is currently a secondary offense;  41 other states already have laws that make texting and driving a primary offense. Florida drivers can get ticketed for texting and driving but only if they were pulled over for something else first, like speeding.

[Share your story with News 6 on our Driving Change page. For more information, click hereHow to contact your Florida lawmakers ]

More than eight people are killed in the U.S. every day in crashes involving a distracted driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Austin went to Tallahassee recently to ask Florida legislatures why a primary offense texting-and-driving bill can’t get past the House and Senate.

“Lawmakers in Florida just don’t seem to care about getting Florida to get caught up with the 41 other states that have made texting and driving a primary offense,” Austin said.

Florida’s Legislature is currently in session; during this legislative session four distracted driving bills have been filed, two in the House and two in the Senate.

Only one bill has made it before a committee hearing.

Senate Bill 144 passed its first hurdle on March 6 when it was approved by a transportation subcommittee.

Senate Bill 144 and its House companion bill both have several more subcommittees to pass through before being put to a vote by the full Legislature and becoming a law.

The Associated Press Contributed to this report.

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