A cure worse than the disease
Some ideas in the Texas Legislature need wings, and others need landing gear. The latter should be the fate of the “texting while driving bill.” A ban on texting while driving is being touted as a necessary response to the increasing number of deaths on Texas roadways. This is a cure that would be worse than the disease.
Texting while driving has increased as cellphones have become fundamental to our everyday lives. I would agree that some of the deaths and injuries tied to texting while driving should have, and possibly could have, been prevented.
But does that mean we need a statute to ban texting while driving?
I don’t think we do, anymore than we need greater gun regulation because of the increasing number of deaths and injuries caused by guns. Cellphone usage should be viewed in the same way.
If that’s not enough, consider this: How can a police officer determine what an individual is doing with his cellphone in his car? Are drivers just holding it? Is a call being made? And even worse, will the cellphone have to be confiscated as evi- dence by law enforcement?
There is also the problem of expanding probable cause after enacting a texting ban. Passing such a bill means that law enforcement would have another tool in its arsenal to routinely stop individuals — especially those driving while black. People don’t like to face this issue, but far too often a pretext is used by law enforcement officers for stopping black folks while driving.
And it is certain to increase after a texting-while-driving ban. Last session, my support for the bill was conditioned on preventing law enforcement’s use of driving while texting as probable cause for a stop. That would not interfere if driving while texting were a secondary charge. My concern was ignored.
Texas already makes it illegal for a person to cause an injury while driving a vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property — typically a misdemeanor, which can rise to a felony if a death or injury is involved.
Texting while driving — and all distracted driving — should be considered reckless driving. No more, no less.