House ap­proves ban on tex­ting while driv­ing,

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Sean Collins Walsh scwalsh@states­man.com Con­tact Sean Collins Walsh at 512-912-2939.

Once again, the Texas House has given pre­lim­i­nary ap­proval to a statewide ban on tex­ting while driv­ing. And once again, it faces an up­hill bat­tle to be­come law.

Pre­vent­ing Texas driv­ers from us­ing their cell­phones be­hind the wheel has been a pri­or­ity of state Rep. Tom Crad­dick, R-Mid­land, since 2009.

In a 113-32 vote, the House on Tues­day gave pre­lim­i­nary ap­proval to Crad­dick’s House Bill 62. The ef­fort faces an un­cer­tain fu­ture in the Se­nate be­cause of op­po­si­tion from con­ser­va­tives who see the ban as a way to limit driv­ers’ free­dom.

Crad­dick pitched the bill as a com­mon­sense pub­lic safety mea­sure. “It’s the ma­jor cause of ac­ci­dents and deaths in this coun­try and in this state,” he said.

A Se­nate com­mit­tee on Mon­day ap­proved Se­nate Bill 31, an iden­ti­cal mea­sure, by a 6-3 vote.

The bill would as­sess a $99 fine on first-time of­fend­ers and a $200 fine on re­peat of­fenses.

Crad­dick’s pre­vi­ous at­tempts have been de­feated in var­i­ous ways. Last ses­sion, the bill passed the House but did not have enough sup­port to come up for a vote in the Se­nate. In 2011, it passed both cham­bers only to be ve­toed by then-Gov. Rick Perry.

Forty-six states have banned tex­ting while driv­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Con­fer­ence on State Leg­is­la­tures.

Us­ing a cell­phone while driv­ing is also banned in Austin, among other Texas cities.

COX ME­DIA GROUP 2013

RI­CARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Rep. Tom Crad­dick, R-Mid­land, speak­ing on the House floor on Wed­nes­day, spon­sored the bill ban­ning tex­ting while driv­ing. He called it a com­mon-sense pub­lic safety mea­sure.

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