Texas lags when it comes to distracted driving laws


by Andrew Horansky / KHOU 11 News


Posted on August 16, 2012 at 11:31 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 16 at 11:40 PM

GALVESTON, Texas – While public service announcements from the Texas Department of Transportation are urging drivers not to text and drive, not many Texans are heeding the message.

“I’d say they’re distracted over 50 percent of the time, if not over 70 percent of the time,” Galveston officer Tommy Maffei said.

His city is one of just a few in the state to enact a distracted-driving law. If a driver is caught texting and driving in Galveston, they can be ticketed.

But the distractions are not just limited to the public. In police cruisers, they practically come standard.

During a recent patrol, Maffei showed how his computer mount can swing and bump his arm while driving.

“That can actually cause an accident,” he said.

Two years ago, an officer in Austin rammed into a motorcyclist in broad daylight. Later he admitted to being distracted.

Though texting behind the wheel is illegal in school zones and certain cities, Texas is one of just 11 states without a ban. Others have gone as far as to ban all handheld devices while driving.

“They are not on their cell phones as much as they are in Texas,” Houston attorney Brad Wyly said.

Still, few states have taken a look at what laws, if any, should apply to first responders. Many, like the officers in Galveston, can technically use their laptops while operating their vehicles.

Houston drivers are mixed over whether that’s a double standard.

“I think law enforcement should not text either,” one driver said.

“Somehow it helps them do their job,” said another. “But it’s dangerous too.”