Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Austin Considers a Ban on Texting While Driving


On this important election day, I am sure that most of you have your attention focused on exit polls and those little counters that run on the bottom of the screen of cable news networks showing how many minutes remain until we know who our next president will be. With all the confusion over electronic voting machines and butterfly ballots, we may someday find a way to put those old methods aside and share our choice for president through a simple text vote on our cell phones (what could possibly go wrong there?). If that happens, our beloved city of Austin may prevent you from pushing the "R" or "D" while you are driving. The city's public safety task force has approved a resolution that would ban texting while you are behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. The City Council must now take action by developing a proposal to debate on as possible law.

If Austin decides to outlaw text messaging while driving, the city will join seven states and Washington, D.C. in instituting such a ban. While it is difficult to determine the correlation between texting and car accidents, as police cannot know if the phone was being used unless the driver admits to the offense or there was a witness, simulated studies have shown that typing words on your cell phone is far from a safe driving practice. And, let's be honest, it is really necessary to text, "OMG! I m so trd!" while trying to merge onto an interstate?

Debbie Russell, president of the Central Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, does not support the legislation as it is arbitrary in the behavior it would criminalize. What about the people who change the radio station every ten seconds searching for the perfect song or the women who believe lipstick is best applied while hurtling a piece of heavy machinery down a busy road? Russell believes that the current laws against erratic driving cover all consequences of distracting behavior and she does not want to institute a new criminal offense just because text messaging is the trendy focus of anger right now.

Have you crashed into the front of your neighbor's house because you were texting your wife about dinner plans? Did you allow a captivating game of solitaire that you had laid out on your passenger seat distract you from the approaching stop light? If your less-than-stellar decisions while driving have left you facing criminal charges, the defense attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. Contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio offices today to discuss your case.

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