The Texas House of Representatives passed House Bill 63, also known as the Alex Brown Memorial Act, Wednesday afternoon with a 98 to 47 vote. Both Lubbock area representatives John Frullo and Charles Perry voted for the bill. Now House Bill 63 heads to the Senate.
"I was thrilled because I really feel like it was a step in the right direction," said Jeanne Brown. Her daughter Alex was killed in a one-vehicle accident in 2009 as a result of texting behind the wheel and it was something she warned her daughter about all the time.
"I was constantly, even when I was in the car with her I would say, ‘Alex put your phone down. If you do this while I'm in the car I know you're doing it while I'm not.' But there was nothing that said it was against the law or dangerous for her even to do that."
Since her daughter's death in 2009, there has only been one other bill that attempted to ban texting while driving. In 2011, Representative Tom Craddick sponsored House Bill 242 which got all the way to the governor's desk before it was vetoed. With the introduction of this new bill, Brown feels confident that it would save families in Texas from experiencing the heartache that she has felt.
"This bill is a tool that our law enforcement officers can use to help prevent wrecks from happening instead of having to wait until someone gets hurt before they can give someone a ticket for texting," she said.
The bill would make it illegal for people to send or look at text-based messages on a cell phone if they are behind the wheel and the car is in motion. Perpetrators would receive a first time fine of $100.00 and $200.00 for their second offense.
And, according to our research, most Lubbock citizens feel the same way Brown feels.
"It's selfish, it's not only putting yourself in danger but it's putting other people in danger. It's the same as drinking and driving," said Elizabeth Slaughter.
"You got to put it in the back of your mind you know it's not worth it. You really have to put it in your pocket it takes a lot of discipline and a lot of mental courage to be able to do something like that," said Greg Mendoza.
"I always focus on the road because I have plenty of other time to use my phone, so Facebook isn't really a priority while I'm driving," said Tomas Gatica.
Even though most citizens seem to support the bill, getting the governor on board may prove difficult.
We emailed Governor Perry to ask if he supported a texting and driving ban this time around. His office responded that his position from the last session hasn't changed. In reference to the original texting while driving bill, Perry stated:
"Texting while driving is reckless and irresponsible. I support measures that make our roads safer for everyone, but House Bill 242 is a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults. Current law already prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from texting or using a cell phone while driving. I believe there is a distinction between the overreach of House Bill 242 and the government's legitimate role in establishing laws for teenage drivers who are more easily distracted and laws providing further protection to children in school zones. The keys to dissuading drivers of all ages from texting while driving are information and education. I recommend additional education on this issue in driving safety and driver's education courses, public service ads, and announcements, and I encourage individuals and organizations that testified in favor of the anti-texting language included in this bill to work with state and local leaders to educate the public of these dangers."
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