New texting and driving ban allows us to keep our eyes on the road

Photo credit: Rewon Shimray

As of Friday, texting and driving is illegal in the state of Texas (see Lariat and LTVN coverage here). House Bill 62 was signed into law on June 6 by Gov. Greg Abbott, making Texas the 47th state to ban texting and driving. With this new law, the consequence of a first offense is a $25 to $99 fine and a second offense is a $100 to $200 fine. According to Rasansky Law Firm, the new law also states that if an accident caused by texting and driving results in the death or serious injury of another person, the driver can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $4,000 and confinement in jail for up to a year.

The signing of House Bill 62 is not the worst thing to happen to us, although some may feel it is the end of the world. According to Rasansky Law Firm, in 2016, 109,658 car accidents in Texas alone were due to distracted driving, leading to over 3,000 serious injuries and over 450 deaths. Looking at these numbers, it’s heartbreaking to think about how many of those 3,000 injuries and 450 lives could have changed if drivers that were texting had been pulled over.

This law only addresses writing, sending or reading text messages and makes no reference to cell phone use for GPS usage, music or voice calls. However, drivers can still be pulled over if a police officer suspects texting. The state of Texas has tried to ban texting and driving three times before House Bill 62 (in 2011, 2013 and 2015).

The enactment of this law forces all of us to pay more attention to the road. House Bill 62 is a smack in the face, telling us to take a step back and realize that when driving, the road is a priority, not a text coming through or going out. Imagine driving and seeing your phone buzz, picking it up to read a text that says “LOL” or “Hey” or “Sure” or any other minuscule word, and then the crash comes. Your life ends, or worse, you become a murderer and have to live with that for the rest of your life.

You ended a life because you just had to read “LOL.” You became a murderer because you just had to send that text that said “Sure.”

We may complain about no longer being allowed to stay in communication with our friends and family while driving, but ultimately, nothing is as important as our safety and our neighbors safety. No text is as important as a life. When driving, we are operating huge, deadly machines that take lives in a flash. When holding a knife in the kitchen, we don’t text and chop vegetables. The same philosophy should be applicable when driving. When sitting behind the wheel of a 4,000 pound automobile, our focus should be on safety and not on the screens that take up so much of our time to begin with. If we don’t text and use a knife at the same time, we shouldn’t text and drive either.

Distracted driving is deadly driving. There’s so much going on all at once on the road between operating a 60 mph vehicle: cars entering and exiting the highway and construction causing sudden brake slams. Anything that takes the focus away from the road and could potentially harm the lives of those inside the car should be banned and those bans should be respected, even if that includes waiting five minutes to tell your friend “Yes,” or to see what new meme was put in the group chat. Respect the value of life and respect the law; don’t text and drive.