AUSTIN - It looks like the fourth time's the charm for lawmakers working to pass a statewide ban on texting while driving.
The Texas Senate voted 23-8 Friday to pass House Bill 62 by Representative Tom Craddick (R-Midland).
Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) carried the bill in the Senate. She said she's been working for 10 years to pass a bill like this and she was happy to work with Representative Craddick on the legislation.
The bill bans handheld texting while driving but allows drivers to use GPS and their music apps. It also preempts city ordinances related to texting.
So, if HB62 becomes law, Austin drivers will be able to use their phones for GPS and music while driving. However, the city's hands-free ordinance as it relates to all other wireless device use still applies.
This is the fourth session that Rep. Craddick has passed a texting while driving ban out of the House. The first time around it was added as an amendment to another bill, but then Governor Rick Perry, vetoed it. The next two sessions it was voted out of the House but died in the Senate.
Craddick said he understands some feel the bill takes away a driver's rights, but adds it protects the rights of others and there's evidence to back that up.
"If you look at statistics in the 46 other states that have passed it, what you're seeing is their number of accidents are down, their number of deaths are down, their number of property damage is down," Craddick said. "So we just had to prove to people that it's working in other states and it'll work in this state. The A&M study alone says it will save over 90 lives a year in Texas by just passing this law. If you just save one, to me, it's worth it."
Craddick said he was surprised 23 senators voted in favor of the bill. During Senate debate, many senators acknowledged they were once against a statewide ban but changed their minds after hearing stories of fatal crashes from their constituents.
The Senate version of the bill is slightly different than what the House passed, but Craddick worked with the Senator Zaffirini to draft the Senate version and said he will concur with the changes. That will send the bill to Governor Greg Abbott for final approval.
Craddick said Abbott said at a public event in Midland a few months ago that he does plan to sign the bill.
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