Ban on Texting While Driving Picks Up Steam in Texas Legislature: El Paso Auto Accident Attorney Comments on Dangers of Texting While Driving

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After Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a texting-while-driving ban in 2011, an effort to pass the bill again is getting bipartisan support in the Legislature. El Paso auto accident lawyer Samuel E. Sprowles discusses the dangers of texting while driving and what the law may mean for liability.

Former Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives and current State Rep. Tom Craddick has once again filed a bill in the current legislative session to ban texting while driving. Distracted driving, including texting while driving, is a dangerous practice that leads to far too many accidents, far too many injuries and far too much death, said El Paso auto accident lawyer Samuel E. Sprowles.

"The Legislature would be well-advised to pass this bill, and Gov. Rick Perry to sign it," Sprowles said. "Distracted driving is dangerous. If you're looking at your phone, you're not looking at the road."

House Bill 63 would make it a traffic infraction to read, write or send a text-based message while operating a motor vehicle, unless the vehicle is stopped. A text-based message could mean an email, a text message or an instant message. Under the proposed law, the driver could still talk on the phone or use dictation-type apps to compose and send messages, but, unless the vehicle is at a stop, cannot stare at a phone screen for several seconds to read a message and then, taking one or both hands off the wheel, pound out a response while still going down the highway at 60 miles per hour, Sprowles said.

Craddick last filed a similar bill in the 2011 Legislature session, where it passed both the House and the Senate. Gov. Rick Perry, however, vetoed the bill, calling it a "government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults."

Sprowles, however, supports the legislation. “Establishing the rules of the road is necessary to keep drivers safe. That's always been the state's responsibility, and it shouldn't change now."

Craddick has once again filed the bill, and expressed hope that the legislation, which passed with broad bi-partisan support in 2011, will once again pass both houses and that, this time, Gov. Perry will sign it.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2011. The NHTSA also says that driving while text messaging makes a driver 23 times more likely to get in a wreck. The agency says texting is the "most alarming" distraction, since it simultaneously utilizes a person's manual, visual and cognitive functions, all of which are necessary to driver.

"As an El Paso auto accident lawyer, I represent the victims of auto accidents caused by distracted drivers," Sprowles said. "People lose their ability to work, their ability to walk, and even their lives. It's a serious problem that the Legislature should address."

Not only would the texting ban serve as a deterrent, it could also strengthen the cases of victims when they seek redress through the legal system, Sprowles said. In personal injury law, violating a statute that exists to promote safety does not automatically make the person violating the law liable, he explained. However, it does make them "negligent per se," meaning they are conclusively presumed to be negligent.

"The law would be an affirmation that texting is dangerous," Sprowles said. "If the victim's lawyer can show that the negligent driver was texting, typically the victim only needs to show causation and damages."

Samuel E. Sprowles, of the Law Office of Samuel E. Sprowles, is an El Paso auto accident attorney who represents the victims of motor vehicle accidents, motorcycle accidents, commercial truck accidents and pedestrian accidents. He also represents plaintiffs in personal injury law, including victims in premises liability cases, dog bites, nursing home neglect and military base accidents.

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