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State Senate zeroes in on distracted driving accidents

At least 46 states now ban texting and driving. Texas is not one of them. The state legislature is, however, debating just such a bill in the Senate right now. Although there is the two-thirds vote ready to approve the Senate version of the bill, efforts are stalled in committee until further support is obtained. The legislation is being promoted to help reduce the increasing numbers of distracted driving accidents.

The holdup is due to twists of Texas politics, one aspect being the Lieutenant Governor's threat to stop the bill if more senators do not sign on. Although HB 62 has previously been approved in the House and voted out of committee in the Senate, its passage was held up on wording that would require that the violation occur simultaneously with a separate traffic violation, such as passing a red light. Understandably, law enforcement agencies objected strenuously to that part of the bill, calling it unenforceable.

It is likely that the bill will emerge without the requirement of a simultaneous traffic violation. However, nothing is certain since the bill's sponsors have been trying to get it through since 2009. Many Texas cities and towns, however, have passed various versions of an anti-texting local ordinance. This bill would apparently be implemented in coexistence with the ordinances.

The sense of urgency to pass the bill has increased over the years as the numbers of traffic fatalities have significantly increased nationwide and in Texas. The law will be good news for victims of distracted driving accidents because the proof of a violation for texting, issued after the accident, would be strong evidence of the driver's negligence in causing the mishap. The existence of such proof would assist injured victims, and the estates of deceased victims, to obtain earlier settlements for higher amounts than may have been possible without such evidence.

Source:, "Why texting-while-driving ban may need super-majority in Senate", Ben Wear, May 15, 2017

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