HOUSTON — Houston Mayor Annise Parker enlisted an A-list hip-hop legend with major street credibility to help her tackle the growing problem of texting and driving among teens. Bun B of the rap duo, UGK, joined the mayor at City Hall Tuesday as she launched her anti-texting-while-driving campaign.
"In 2011, 13-percent of the more than 3,000 traffic fatalities in the state of Texas were due to texting while driving," Parker said.
Just last December, a Texas A&M student from Montgomery County was killed in a single-car crash. Investigators said Chandler Small was texting while driving when she lost control of her car.
"Driving is hard enough as it is, much less trying to incorporate texting and phone calls," Bun B said.
There is a bill pending in the state legislature to ban texting while driving statewide. If it doesn’t happen, Parker hopes to make it illegal in Houston.
In the meantime, she urged drivers to use common sense.
Longtime political cartoonist Clive Peterson joined Mayor Parker and Bun B at the news conference.
"There is a great comic who likes to use the line, ’You can’t fix stupid.’ Texting while driving is about as stupid as anyone could behave," Peterson said. "Beginning now here in Houston we’re gonna fix stupid."
The mayor is launching a full public awareness campaign, focusing on schools, in an effort to make young people understand just how dangerous texting and driving can be.
The Houston Police Department and the Houston Fire Department are going to schools as part of their regular presentations conducting workshops, but Mayor Parker wanted someone who could "connect" more with the youth.
"We have lots and lots of statistics, but statistics really are something that really kind of wash over people and they just go about their lives. What we want is to have that people-to-people connection and we want people to recognize that it can be cool to do the right thing, it can be smart to do the right thing and it is not just mayors and school teachers and parents lecturing," she said. "It’s people in the popular culture who recognize that this is a problem and who kids are used to listening to in other context, so it is my honor to introduce local rapper, Bun B."
The rapper said he was honored to be selected to join in the fight and would do all he could help spread the word.
"As a person that has a bit of influence with the younger people of the city of Houston, I felt it was imperative to be a part of this program. Our young people, unfortunately, unlike ourselves have learned to text and communicate with these electronic devices before they learn to drive. So they are incorporating that into their driving," he said. "As human beings we are creatures of habit, most of us are used to doing what we are used to doing and usually these habits are only things that affect us, but when your habit is texting and driving, it not only puts your life in danger, but many other people’s lives in danger."
Texas Southern University, the University of Houston and Rice University are part of the initiative.
Together, with the city’s top officials, they are hoping to drill it into the brains of the young that this is a dangerous habit and should be taken seriously.
"If my influence can help put those phones in pockets and keep those phones in purses and keep both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road, I am more than happy to be a part of it and I am happy that the mayor asked me to be a part of it," Bun B said.