By Kathi Bliss
I’ve used this space many times to discuss driving habits – usually, I’ll confess, when an accident happens that gets me rattled.
And while it didn’t affect us directly, I’d say that the bus crash out at Concan qualifies as “jarring.”
At the beginning of the current legislative session, both House Speaker Tom Craddick and Senator Judith Zaffirini filed legislation that would potentially ban texting while driving in the State of Texas. It was the fifth time the pair had pushed for the ban; it looks like this year, finally, the legislation will get the fair shake it deserves.
It’s high time. I’m not sure I understand why it’s taken this long.
Opponents of the legislation call a texting ban an effort to “micromanage the behavior of adults.” There’s truth to that, I suppose – but then again, there are some adults whose behavior richly needs to be micromanaged.
I can’t count, on any given day, how many times I see on my social media feeds, friends that have taken video of something they see, or a photograph of the song on the radio. And I know this is happening while they’re driving down the road. And it chills me, because distracted driving is dangerous driving. I’ve seen enough accidents, talked to enough first responders, to know that there’s no two ways around that. Distracted driving is dangerous. It is equally as dangerous as driving drunk, and I’m at a loss to explain why there are people that don’t understand that.
The texting ban did pass the Texas House in mid-March, finally. There were opponents to the bill, of course; largely, the objections centered around probable cause (how an officer could know for sure whether a driver is texting, rather than checking a GPS device for directions), and questions of local versus State jurisdiction. But it did, finally pass.
The House version of the bill is expected to go to the Senate later in session, and I’m hoping that it will pass. It’s time.
Generally speaking, I don’t advocate for laws that restrict an individual’s activities. What’s more, I generally don’t support legislation that would make a behavior that most of my friends engage in, a misdemeanor offense. Normally, I’d say that our lawmakers should trust us, by and large, to do the right thing.
Except here’s the thing. We, as Texans, have proven that we aren’t going to do the right thing where distracted driving is concerned. We’ve proven that we’re going to keep right on texting, Facebooking, Snapchatting or Instagramming while we’re behind the wheel, until we’re given some compelling reason not to.
Personally, watching the first seriously injured child get cut out of a car because someone else wasn’t paying attention was a plenty compelling enough reason for me to change my own behavior. And I’d like to think that 13 dead innocents in Uvalde County would be enough for everyone else. But unfortunately, for some people, it will never be compelling enough, until it hits them in the pocketbook.
I’m glad that I don’t have to contact my Senator and ask her to support a ban on distracted driving – I already know she supports it. All that’s left to do, at this point, is to ask my neighbors to support her, in lending her support to the bill – and to lending their compliance, after it’s passed.
I mean, come on, y’all. If it’s an emergency, you can pull over. If it’s not an emergency, it can wait. And honestly… your need to share the fact that your favorite song just came on the radio is not worth risking your life – or anyone else’s.
So, if we won’t stop it on our own, I’m glad that the State is finally ready to step in and save us from ourselves.