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Pitching a statewide ban on texting while driving like one vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2011, a former speaker of the Texas House said two dozen Texas cities and most states already bar the practice.
Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, said in a Nov. 12, 2012, press release: "Approximately 25 Texas cities have adopted an ordinance banning texting while driving." He also said: "It is time for Texas to join the other 39 states" in banning "this dangerous behavior for all drivers."
Craddick’s House Bill 63 would bar the use of a wireless communication device to read, write or send a text-based communication while driving, except when a vehicle is stopped. The ban would not apply to hands-free devices or to dialing a number or using the GPS on a hand-held phone.
Perry’s June 17, 2011, message accompanying his veto of Craddick’s previous proposal said that texting while driving is reckless and irresponsible, but the proposed change in law amounts to a "government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults." Perry said the keys to "dissuading drivers of all ages from texting while driving are information and education."
Nationally, according to a web post by the National Conference of State Legislatures, more than 220 million people subscribe to wireless services and up to 80 percent of those subscribers use their phones while driving. Further, distracted driving including cell phone use figured into 16 percent of fatal U.S. crashes in 2009, up from 10 percent in 2005, as noted in a June 2011 Truth-O-Meter article.
We won’t judge here whether restrictions on cell phone use affect accident rates.
But is Craddick correct that 39 states and about 25 Texas cities now bar texting while driving?
To our inquiry, Kate Huddleston of Craddick’s office forwarded an email from Julian Hoffman of the National Safety Council stating that 39 states ban texting while driving. By email, Hoffman told us the council drew its count from information posted online with a map of the United States by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which describes itself as an effort funded by auto insurers dedicated to reducing deaths, injuries and property damage related to highway and roadway crashes.
An introduction to the institute’s map of states with limits on texting while driving, dated November 2012, says: "Text messaging is banned for all drivers in 39 states and the District of Columbia." The map indicates that six additional states, including Texas, have imposed partial bans. In Texas, an institute chart says, individuals barred from texting include drivers in school crossing zones; bus drivers when a passenger 17 or younger is present; and drivers younger than 18.
States lacking any such restrictions are Montana, Arizona, South Dakota, South Carolina and Florida, according to the map.
We asked the institute how it determined the states with such laws. Spokesman Russ Rader told us by phone: "We track state laws. That’s part of what we do."
Rader also sent a chart showing the date each state’s texting-while-driving ban took effect.
Among the states, Connecticut had the first law, in 2005. The year 2010 had the highest count of any year with restrictions taking effect in 14 states. From January through August 2012, most recently, bans took effect in six states--Nevada, Pennsylvania, Idaho, West Virginia, Alabama and Ohio.
Similarly, the National Conference of State Legislatures says 39 states have banned texting while driving. Anne Teigen, a conference policy specialist, told us by phone that the group independently confirmed each state’s ban.
Next, we hunted breakdowns of the Texas cities that have banned texting while driving.
According to a February 2012 report by the non-partisan House Research Organization, which analyzes legislative issues for the Texas House, Austin was the state’s first city to do so, in November 2009. In total, the report says, at least 23 Texas cities approved bans. Besides Austin, cities listed as having bans are: Alamo, Arlington, Bellaire, Brownsville, Conroe, El Paso (which bans motorists from using any hand-held devices), Galveston, Harlingen, Magnolia, McAllen, Mission, Missouri City, Mount Vernon, Nacogdoches, Palmview, Penitas, San Antonio, Shoreacres, Stephenville, Tomball, Universal City and West University Place. By telephone, Laura Hendrickson, the research group’s director, told us its researcher compiled the list.
Amarillo, described in the report as weighing a ban, later banned the use of hand-held phones while driving, according to a Nov. 12, 2012, news article in the Amarillo Globe-News.
Separately, Craddick’s office forwarded an email from the Texas Department of Transportation listing the same cities plus Canyon. TxDOT spokeswoman Veronica Beyer told us by phone its list originated with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute whose spokesman, Bernie Fette, emailed that it was built from online news sources checked during August and September 2012.
Craddick said 39 states and about 25 Texas cities have banned texting while driving. That’s correct, making his statement True.
Chart, "Cell Phone Use and Texting While Driving Laws," National Conference of State Legislatures, updated August. 2012 (accessed Nov. 19, 2012)
Telephone interview, Russ Rader, senior vice president, Communications, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Arlington, Virginia, Nov. 16, 2012
Chart showing effective dates of state laws restricting texting while driving, provided by Russ Rader, Nov. 16, 2012
Report, "Texas cities move to ban texting while driving," House Research Organization, Feb. 22, 2012
Telephone interview, Anne Teigen, senior policy specialist, National Conference of State Legislatures, Denver, Nov. 19, 2012
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