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Texas Lawmakers Consider Statewide Distracted Driving Bills

Thursday, March 10, 2011 - 07:02 AM

(Houston - Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) Texans used to juggling phone calls and emails during their drive to work may have to come up with another way to multitask soon. Several states have passed laws making it illegal for people to fumble around with their mobile phones while driving, regardless of their age. Texas isn’t one of them, but that could change soon.

Members of the Texas House of Representatives are considering bills that would make texting and emailing while driving illegal. Joel Cooper is a researcher with the Texas Transportation Institute. He testified before the House Transportation Committee on the dangers of texting while driving. “Text messaging turns out to be a perfect combination, the perfect storm, if you will, of three distraction types," he said. "It’s both a cognitive task, you have to think about it, you have to look down at your device, and manipulate it with your hands. So because of that it’s not really surprising that the data are suggesting that text messaging is so dangerous.”

Listen to the story over at KUHF News.

State Representative Tom Craddick suggested combining four of the bills into one that would ban texting while driving. Another bill, introduced by Representative Jose Menendez, would ban both texting and talking on the phone behind the wheel. Charmane Walden, with the National Safety Council’s Texas chapter, says both texting and talking on phones should be outlawed. “People who text and also talk on the phone... might look ahead and see street signs and see other cars, but cognitively they only process about half of what they see," she said. "So we’re in support of eliminating cell phones while driving.”

Mobile phone use while driving is particularly prevalent among younger drivers. A poll out this week found that 63 percent of drivers under 30 admitted to using a wireless device while driving in the last month. Thirty percent reported texting behind the wheel.

The U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has made his opinion of distracted driving clear: He’s not for it. He calls the practice an epidemic and insists that distracted driving will stay on the top of the Department of Transportation’s list of priorities. But the verdict is still out on using hands-free device to talk while driving. Earlier today Secretary LaHood said he would not yet advocate for a ban on drivers using blue-tooth technology until more research is done.

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