Austin may ban texting while driving

Ashley Hughes

The City of Austin’s Public Safety Task Force is exploring the idea of a ban on texting while operating an automobile.

Councilman Mike Martinez has received many calls lately about putting such a ban on text messaging while driving, especially calls from pedestrians, bicyclists, and other motorists. It is thought that enforcing such a law would further ensure the safety of the citizens of Austin.

At CPHS, many students agree that such a law should be enforced.

“I think that they should ban texting while driving because it causes lots of accidents.” Melissa Principe, senior, said. “It is a distraction and you never know what may change in the road.”

Others think that it wouldn’t be a necessity to completely ban texting.

“At a stop light it’s okay to text, but otherwise you shouldn’t while driving,” Austin Potter, junior, said.

However, there are several other distractions besides text messaging that frequently cause accidents. Some of these include talking on the phone, applying makeup, and simply turning the channel while listening to the radio.

According to the Austin American Statesman, studies show that drivers are four times more likely to have an accident while talking on a cell phone. This risk therefore would seem to be even more likely if the driver is sending text messages.

“There is a six second average of looking down while texting, and it only takes that long to get in a wreck,” Caitlin Boykin, sophomore, said.

If enacted, the ban could require drivers to use hand free devices such as ear pieces, a head set, or even the speaker phone on cell phones. However, even hand free devices can be dangerous because they force the driver to focus on the conversation and the road.

In the case that this law is passed, it will be enforced by the Austin Police Department and will have the same weight as a seatbelt violation.

Studies from the Text Free Driving Organization show that while 89 percent of American adults think that text messaging while driving is dangerous and should be outlawed, 57 percent admit to texting behind the wheel. In addition, 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near crashes involve some sort of phone use.

According to CBS news, the reaction time of a driver who is texting is impaired by 35 percent while text messaging. 91 percent of a driver’s ability to steer properly is also lost.

A train crash that killed 25 people and injured 130 occurred in Los Angeles, California on November 6 when the driver of the commuter train was text messaging and hit a freight train head on. This is the nation’s deadliest rail disaster in fifteen years.

So far, seven states have put bans on text messaging while driving. These states are Alaska, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, and West Virginia.  This law is also enacted in Washington, D.C.