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This bill is substantively the same as when we
reported on it in its original chamber. We continue to oppose HB 80 in the Senate.
This bill proposes several changes to the transportation code.
The bill would amend section 521.161, to require the drivers license test to include knowledge of the risks associated with texting while driving specifically and distracted driving in general.
It also implements a statewide ban on text messaging while driving, unless it is being operated by a 'hands free' mechanism, such as pairing your phone to your vehicle via Bluetooth, or an earpiece. A violation of this law would result in a minor misdemeanor, and a fine of $99 for a first offense and $200 for each offense thereafter.
This legislation provides for several enumerated affirmative defenses to prosecution in cases where the driver uses the wireless communication device for a purpose other than texting.
TxDOT would be responsible for putting up 43 road signs in total on every major highway at the start and end of the road that would inform voters of this law, and the potential consequences.
3rd Reading Update:
We were neutral on this legislation on 2nd Reading. Due to amendments adopted on second reading that broaden the scope of the bill and inadequately prevent motorists from potentially being cited for a state violation and municipal violation at the same time, we oppose HB 80 on 3rd Reading.
Amendment #1 by Rep. Cook was insufficient to ensure that motorists don't potentially receive multiple citations for essentially the same offense and specifically provided that municipalities would still be able to restrict mobile phone usage while driving in categories beyond texting.
Amendment #2 by Rep. Craddick removed mobile phone usage for phone calls and GPS navigation from the list of defenses to prosecution and thus broadened the scope of the bill far beyond the narrow scope of the committee substitute. For these reasons we oppose HB 80 on third reading.
Original 2nd Reading Analysis:
in Texas there is a patchwork of dozens of different municipal laws outlawing
texting while driving. This legislation would harmonize the law to create a
single standard for the entire state. This would ostensibly eliminate confusion
for drivers as they drive across multiple jurisdictions with no way to know
what the various texting while driving laws are in those jurisdictions.
We are supportive of several aspects of HB 80, including the idea of having a uniform law rather than dozens of separate laws across the state that people can’t possibly know about. We also commend this legislation for being much more narrowly crafted than similar legislation in the past.
On the other hand we are concerned that in creating a new statewide ban this bill would create a new state mandate on the areas of Texas where people have not considered such a ban to be necessary.
Furthermore we are concerned that as it is written the Committee Substitute creates a new offense in addition to local laws without specifically preempting the local laws that are already in place in some municipalities. This could potentially cause drivers to be cited with a local and state offense simultaneously; effectively causing a situation of double citation where drivers have to pay a municipal fine and state fine for what is essentially one violation.
We would support a preemption amendment to clarify that a driver cited under the provisions of this bill could only be cited for the one violation, therefore eliminating the double citation concern.
Due to the conflicting elements within the bill – on the one hand removing the patchwork of different laws across the state and on the other hand creating a new ban in areas where there is currently no ban – we are neutral on this legislation.