(AUSTIN) - Today, Rep. Tom Craddick (Midland) filed House Bill 63, the Alex Brown Memorial Act, to address an important traffic safety issue and implement a statewide ban on texting while driving.
"Driving around town or from Midland to Austin, I see so many drivers distracted by their phone. These drivers are taking their eyes off the road and jeopardizing the safety of themselves and others. Writing a text or checking your messages is not worth injuring yourself or someone else," Craddick explained. "Today I filed House Bill 63 because I believe a ban on texting while driving will help save lives."
House Bill 63 introduces a common sense safety measure to ban the use of a wireless communication device to read, write or send a text-based communication while driving, except when a vehicle is stopped. This ban does not apply to dialing a number on a hand-held device, using GPS on a hand-held device, or using voice-operated technology or hands-free.
The bill is named in honor of Alex Brown. Alex lost her life to texting while driving. Jeanne and Johnny Mac Brown lost their daughter, Alex, in a single car accident as she drove to school during her senior year in high school. The family has since formed the Remembering Alex Brown (RAB) foundation to raise awareness about the dangers of texting while driving.
"Those families, like Johnny Mac and Jeanne Brown, who have lost a loved one, know all too well the dangers of texting while driving," Craddick said. "If passed next session, this law will provide a uniform statewide approach to curb this unsafe practice and will go a long way in helping educate drivers on the dangers posed by texting while driving and save lives."
Approximately 25 Texas cities have adopted an ordinance banning texting while driving. While the state does not have a statewide ban, Texas already has several laws in place that regulate texting while driving. There is a ban on statewide texting while driving law in place for drivers under 18; school bus drivers are not allowed to use cell phones when children are present; and drivers are prohibited by law from using a handheld device in school zones where signs are posted.
"The Texas Legislature has a responsibility to give our law enforcement officers the tools they need to make our roadways safer. It is time for Texas to join the other 39 states and the District of Columbia to ban this dangerous behavior for all drivers," Craddick said. "It is my hope that lawmakers can pass this bi-partisan supported legislation during the upcoming legislative session in order to make our roads safer."
Monday, November 12 was the first day state lawmakers could pre-file legislation for the upcoming 83rd Legislative Session, which convenes January 8, 2013.
By: CRADDICK H.B. No. 63
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
relating to the creation of an offense for use of a handheld wireless communication device for text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. This Act may be cited as the Alex Brown Memorial Act.
SECTION 2. The heading to Section 545.425, Transportation Code, is amended to read as follows:
Sec. 545.425. USE OF WIRELESS COMMUNICATION DEVICE GENERALLY; OFFENSE.
SECTION 3. Section 545.425(a)(1), Transportation Code, is amended to read as follows:
(1) "Hands-free device" means speakerphone capability, [or] a telephone attachment, or another function or other piece of equipment, regardless of whether permanently installed in or on a wireless communication device or in a [the] motor vehicle, that allows use of the wireless communication device without use of either of the operator's hands, except to activate or deactivate a function of the wireless communication device or hands-free device.
SECTION 4. Subchapter I, Chapter 545, Transportation Code, is amended by adding Section 545.4251 to read as follows:
Sec. 545.4251. USE OF WIRELESS COMMUNICATION DEVICE TO SEND TEXT-BASED COMMUNICATIONS; OFFENSE. (a) In this section:
(1) "Handheld wireless communication device" means a wireless communication device, as defined by Section 545.425, that is portable. The term does not include:
(A) a citizens band radio or citizens band radio hybrid; or
(B) a commercial two-way radio communication device.
(2) "Text-based communication" means a communication that is designed or intended to be composed with at least one hand on a handheld wireless communication device and that is transmitted between wireless communication devices for the purpose of manually communicating in a nonspoken manner with another person in a written medium. The term includes:
(A) a text message;
(B) an instant message;
(C) an e-mail; or
(D) another type of electronic message.
(b) An operator commits an offense if the operator uses a handheld wireless communication device to read, write, or send a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped.
(c) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (b) that:
(1) the operator used a handheld wireless communication device:
(A) to read, select, or enter a telephone number or name for the purpose of making a telephone call;
(B) in conjunction with voice-operated technology, a push-to-talk function, or a hands-free device, as defined by Section 545.425; or
(C) to navigate using a global positioning system or navigation service; or
(2) the handheld wireless communication device:
(A) was used by the operator to relay information between the operator and a dispatcher in the course of the operator's occupational duties; and
(B) was affixed to the vehicle.
(d) It is an exception to the application of Subsection (b) that the operator is:
(1) an operator of an authorized emergency vehicle using a wireless communication device while acting in an official capacity;
(2) an operator who is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission while operating a radio frequency device other than a handheld wireless communication device; or
(3) an operator of a moving motor vehicle using a handheld wireless communication device to report illegal activity or summon emergency help.
(e) Except as provided by Subsection (f), this section preempts all local ordinances, rules, or regulations that are inconsistent with specific provisions of this section adopted by a political subdivision of this state relating to the use of a wireless communication device by the operator of a motor vehicle.
(f) A political subdivision of this state may adopt a local ordinance, rule, or regulation relating to an operator using a handheld wireless communication device to read, write, or send a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle that is more stringent than this section.
SECTION 5. This Act takes effect September 1, 2013.
Kate Huddleston at (512) 463-0500
500 West Texas, Suite 880