Council Moves On Texting Ban

September 15, 2009

The West U City Council has directed city staff to draft an ordinance that would ban driving-while-texting in all areas of the city.

West U was one of the first Texas cities to ban the use of cell phones, including hands-free devices, in school zones. The city’s ordinance was supplanted by a new Texas law that allows the use of hands-free devices in school zones.

But West U’s leaders aren’t waiting to sit back and see whether federal or state legislators get around to banning the dangerous practice of typing while steering a moving vehicle.

Councilman Steven Segal told his colleagues that 19 states and the District of Columbia have bans on driving-while-texting which will take effect in October.

A California law banning texting, sending e-mail and looking up information on the Internet took effect in January.

The National Safety Council, a non-profit, non-government group, called on federal and state legislators in January to ban driving-while-texting. The group cited several studies showing that driving-while-texting can be as dangerous as driving-while-intoxicated.

Segal proposed that West U adopt a citywide ordinance that would ban driving-while-texting, with an exception for drivers who are pulled over in a stopped vehicle.

Mayor Bob Kelly agreed.

Kelly said West U’s efforts to ban cell phones in the city’s school zone spurred the Texas Legislature to pass the statewide law banning the use of cell phones in school zones last year.

But for the efforts of cities like West U and Highland Park, Kelly said, “The Legislature never would have gotten off the dime and passed the cell phone (law) that we have in Texas right now.”

Mayor Pro Tem Bob Fry said there’s no need for city leaders to wait.

“I am all for it,” Fry said. “Let’s move forward on it.”

Councilman Chuck Guffey said that a ban on driving-while-texting “is so obvious” that the West U police department probably didn’t need to “collect a whole lot of data” about the practice.

Councilman George Boehme wholeheartedly endorsed the council’s request that staff propose an ordinance for their consideration.

“I think we’ve got way, way, way too many laws out there. And that government bodies quite often pass feel-good laws,” Boehme said. “This is not one of them. I can’t think of any reason not to prohibit texting, in cars anywhere and everywhere,” Boehme added.

“It’s would be like passing a law 20 years ago saying ‘you can’t drive down the road with a typewriter in your lap, typing while driving.” I have a hard enough time texting in my living room.”

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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