The tide has turned against texting while driving. State after state has passed restrictions. And Texas may soon join the list.
A bill passed by the Texas House of Representatives, House Bill 63, would impose a statewide prohibition against sending texts while driving. It will now be considered by the Senate.
Two years ago, a similar bill passed both the House and Senate. But it was vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry. The governor said he was concerned about government “micromanagement” of private behavior. A statement issued by Gov. Perry through a spokesman last month indicated that he hasn’t changed his mind.
Could it be, however, that technological alternatives to texting will make the debate about banning texting less important? There are currently efforts underway to develop technology that turns spoken words into text, with no need to type the characters out.
A recent research study by Texas A & M Transportation Institute found that this voice-to-text technology may not be any safer than texting that is done by touching a keypad. Even if drivers aren’t touching characters on a keypad, texting through a voice application is still distracting. It divides their attention and raises their risk of causing motor vehicle accidents.
It raises the risk of accidents because it slows reaction times. So the issue is not whether a device is hands-free or not. Even if a device is hands-free, using it while driving is distracting to a driver.
For commercial drivers of truck and buses, there is already a federal ban on texting while driving. That ban has been in place since 2010. Truck or bus drivers who violate the federal rule face substantial fines.
Source: “Study: Texting While Driving Unsafe By Any Means,” The Texas Tribune, Maurice Chammah, 4-23-13