A bill that would create a statewide ban on texting while driving passed its first legislative hurdle Tuesday when lawmakers voted it out of the House Transportation Committee.
“I am elated House Bill 80 has been reported favorably by the committee and is moving through the legislative process,” state Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, the bill’s author, said in a written statement. “I truly believe this legislation will ultimately save lives.”
The committee approved the bill unanimously, a Craddick spokeswoman said. It will now move to the House Calendars Committee to be considered for floor debate.
Forty-four states now ban text messaging while driving. In Texas, 38 cities have local bans on texting while driving.
Last Thursday, the transportation committee heard emotional testimony from people who had lost loved ones in accidents involving texting while driving.
Critics have called the texting bans an unnecessary government action to control behavior. Former Gov. Rick Perry vetoed similar legislation in 2011, and another bill in 2013 failed to gain traction. Gov. Greg Abbott indicated last year while campaigning that he did not support a statewide ban, saying that it would "micromanage adult driving behavior," but last month he said it was "premature" for him to say whether he would veto Craddick's bill.
More than 95,000 crashes and 460 deaths in Texas were attributed to distracted driving in 2013, according to the Texas Medical Association.
Disclosure: The Texas Medical Association is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.