SB 31

85(R) - 2017
Senate State Affairs
Senate State Affairs

Companion Bill

HB 62

Vote Recommendation

  • Neutral
  • Neutral
  • Negative
  • Negative
  • Negative


Judith Zaffirini

Bill Caption

Relating to the use of a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle; creating a criminal offense; modifying existing criminal penalties.

Fiscal Notes

From the LBB: No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated. 

Bill Analysis

Currently, state law only prohibits the use of a wireless communication device in an active school zone.

SB 31 would implement a statewide prohibition on the use of a wireless communication device to read, write, or send an electronic message while operating a vehicle. An offense created under this bill would be a misdemeanor punishable by a $25-$99 fine for a first time offense and $100-$200 for a subsequent offense.

The bill would provide for certain affirmative defenses to prosecution for use of hands free devices and an exemption for emergency personnel using devices in the course of their duty.

Vote Recommendation Notes

SB 31 offends the principles of limited government, personal responsibility, and individual liberty. The state does not need to address the use of mobile devices while operating a vehicle, as local governments already can and do address this as it suits them. There is no need for a top-down, one-size-fits-all policy directed by the state.

A new law banning texting while driving would be of dubious necessity considering that state law already prohibits reckless driving. Texas Transportation Code Sec. 545.401 broadly defines reckless driving as operating a vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property” leaving plenty of room for texting while driving to be interpreted as reckless under existing statute.

Finally, studies have indicated that other types of distracted driving such as eating, talking to passengers, changing the climate controls, or tuning the radio dial are statistically higher causes of traffic accidents than using a mobile device. A new state law prohibiting texting while driving or other such uses of a mobile device could set a precedent for the state to later ban many other ordinary things like eating while driving, talking to passengers in the back seat while driving, or changing the radio station while driving. After all, It will be argued that if texting while driving must be banned in the interest of public safety than we must also ban the even more dangerous practice of talking to passengers while driving. This is how government continues to grow and regulate the most minute aspects of our lives. This is beyond the proper scope of government.

For these reasons we oppose SB 31.