March 6, 2013
A statewide ban on texting while driving passed the Texas House Committee on Transportation this week, with the support of Texas physicians who see the suffering and death that can result from the potentially dangerous practice. The bill, House Bill 63 by Rep. Tom Craddick (R-Midland), would ban text-based communications except when using a GPS device, pressing a button to make a call, or using voice-operated technology. The full House will hear the bill next.
“Distracted driving is not safe,” said Theodore Spinks, MD, an Austin pediatric neurosurgeon, spine surgeon, and member of the Texas Medical Association (TMA). “Texting is considered one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving, as it is a manual, visual, and mental distraction. Texting while you drive has the potential to kill Texans on our roadways.”
Dr. Spinks testified on behalf of TMA before the state House Committee on Transportation last week in support of these bills banning texting while driving:
- House Bill 41 by Rep. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio) would prohibit wireless communication devices except hands-free devices and establishes fines for offenders.
- House Bill 347 by Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) would prohibit the use of a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle on school property.
- House Bill 63. The bill’s companion legislation is Senate Bill 28 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo).
“There are a lot of compelling statistics” detailing the dangers of texting on the road, Dr. Spinks told the committee. “One in four crashes in Texas is due to distracted driving, and the average driver reading a text message takes their eyes off the road for 4.5 seconds, which at 55 miles an hour is enough to drive a football field without looking.”
Dr. Spinks said that as a physician, he sees the results of distracted driving firsthand.
“As part of my job, one of the worst things I have to do is tell parents, family members, and siblings that their child, their brother, or their sister, is not going to make it or is not likely to make it. I’ve had to do that more often than I would like.”
If The Alex Brown Memorial Act becomes law, Texas physicians say drivers will think twice before pulling out their cell phones, and Texas roads will become a much safer place.
“This bill goes a long way towards improving the safety on the road and decreases the likelihood that we will have to see these patients in the emergency room and have those difficult conversations,” said Dr. Spinks.