While some states have banned the behavior, Texas has not, at least not across the board. The state has imposed the following restrictions:
• Drivers with learners permits are prohibited from using handheld cell phones in the first six months of driving.
• Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using wireless communications devices.
• School bus operators are prohibited from using cell phones while driving, if children are present.
• In school crossing zones, all drivers are prohibited from using handheld devices.
As in other communities across the Lone Star State, local officials have discussed texting and driving, and watched to see what state government might do to address the problem.
“We’ve already prohibited it in the school zones, which mirrors the state’s direction,” said Mineral Wells Police Chief Dean Sullivan. “And in visiting with the city manager, we really thought the legislature was going to take it up this time.”
While acknowledging that texting behind the wheel is not safe driving behavior, he added that local texting-related accidents do not seem to be widespread.
“We haven’t seen that many documented incidents in our community where texting or use of a cell phone or other electronic device was a documented contributing factor; not to say it wasn’t, because it’s absolutely a distraction,” Sullivan said. “But with some of the tools that we have now [online accident reporting] we may be able to better track that and determine if indeed it is an issue here in our community.”
The chief said it is difficult to determine whether texting played a role in an accident.
“A lot of times you only discover it after the fact when there’s been a tragedy, like a fatality,” Sullivan said, “because then there’s a more extensive investigation. We pull the cell phone records and come to find out they were in the midst of typing and had an accident.”