At a legislative briefing Tuesday, relatives of men and women killed in accidents caused by texting while driving sat in committee chairs at a room in the Capitol. In front of each was a framed photograph of one of the deceased.
Outside, as part of a program called It Can Wait, AT&T set up a driving simulation station, resembling a video game, that showed the dangers of trying to send a text message while driving. Participants were asked to sign a pledge to never text and drive again.
The events were designed to garner support for three bills filed in November: House Bill 63, by state Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, and numerous other coauthors; HB 41, by state Rep. Jos Menndez, D-San Antonio; and Senate Bill 28, by state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, a companion to HB 63. Craddick's and Zaffirini's bills would ban typing on a handheld device for the purpose of sending an electronic message, while Menndez's bill seeks to make any use of a cell phone without a hands-free device illegal.
"Banning texting while driving will undoubtedly save lives," Zaffirini said in a statement.
At the briefing, lawmakers urged their colleagues to support the legislation. "It's time for us to pass a uniform law that everyone understands in order to keep our drivers on the road safe," said state Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, adding that Craddick's bill covers everything from posting on Facebook to tweeting to sending an email, not just sending a traditional text message. "You're here to help us today to stop these accidents."
Jeanne Brown told the story of her 17-year-old daughter, Alex Brown, who was killed in 2009 in a rollover accident on her way to school while texting four friends. "All it takes is a split second to lose control," Brown said. "The truck landed on top of my 110-pound daughter and crushed her."
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