Texas Laws Set the Scene for National Cell Phone Action

If you're driving in Texas, you may want to consider keeping both hands on the wheel. Cell phone laws have been ramping up across the country and Texas is one of many states taking a hard look at phone use by drivers.

On September 1st, two new laws took effect in Texas further prohibiting mobile phone use, including texting.

The first applies to drivers in school crossing zones and bus drivers transporting minors. Signed into state law this June, the ban prohibits any kind of cell phone use by drivers passing through a school crossing zone. Signs will be posted to remind drivers of the new law and violators will be fined for non-compliance. The other half of the law restricts bus drivers from talking or texting whenever minors are aboard.

A second law prohibits all cell phone use by drivers under the age of 17 who have restricted licenses. In addition, another bill to extend cell phone bans for all drivers under the age of 18 has been approved by the Texas House of Representatives and is currently sitting in the Senate.

Both laws - especially the law restricting teens from talking and texting - follow a nationwide trend of heavy investigation into the role of mobile phones in motor vehicle accidents.

Recently, a report created by National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2002 was uncovered. Citing accident statistics involving distracted drivers, the report recommended against the use of cell phones while driving.

This information, initially withheld from the public, has been the catalyst for increased debate on this issue. The facts are especially alarming for teenagers, for whom driving-related incidents are the leading cause of death. Over 50 percent of teens admit to talking or texting on a cell phone while driving.

Though teens are often the most cited group of drivers in cell phone studies, all users are susceptible to distraction, and the increase in mobile phone-related accidents is not limited to teen drivers.

These studies, ever-increasing cell phone subscriptions, safety advocates and growing pressure on officials to stem the tide of driving deaths have combined to move cell phone safety more and more from the state level to the national scene.

While trailing state-level responses, national organizations are beginning to act. In January, the National Safety Council called for a nationwide ban on cell phone use while driving. In late July, the ALERT Drivers Act was introduced in Congress and proposes to reduce highway funding to states that do not prohibit drivers from texting while on the road.