New Bill Could Put the Breaks on Sending a Text From Behind the Wheel

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

If you ever gotten a text message while you're in the car, it can be tough to resist the urge to open and read it. But that split second decision could cause an accident. One State lawmaker wants to put the breaks on that problem, but his target is teens.

Texas House Representative Solomon Ortiz introduced a proposal this week calling for a ban on texting while driving. Several other members of the House have come up with similar bills, but this one is a little different - it's focused on teenage drivers.

"A lot of people don't realize how dangerous it is to be texting while they're driving," James Woods, an Odessa neighbor, who is against the bill, said.

A new bill wouldn't just put a ban on texting, it specifically targets teen drivers under 18.

"They shouldn't just single out teenagers because adults are doing it too," Kristen Roberts, an Odessa teen disagreeing with the bill said. "Most adults get in accidents from that too. It's messed up how they just singled us out."

"It's discrimination against a class of people," Woods said. "That's just not right."

Representative Ortiz says he wants to make the roads safer, and by singling out teens he's hoping to instill good driving habits early on.

"The reality of politics and what's happened in the past, I felt like it would not pass," Texas House Representative Solomon Ortiz, Jr. said. "So I felt like introducing a measure for individuals under 18 more targeted towards younger individuals would have a more realistic shot at passing."

But some local teens think a ban isn't such a bad idea, and may even help reduce accidents.

"Especially around schools, like Permian, there's a lot of accidents and it's usually because they're texting," Seila Cervantas, an Odessa 18-Year-Old driver, said.

After looking a similar proposals, Ortiz made a couple of other changes. He added that an officer cannot pull a driver over simply because they're texting and look young. However, if the driver is stopped for a second offense and the officer realizes text messaging played a role in the  incident, they'll add another fine. Secondly, the bill allows drivers to use a handsfree device.

"I think so far, it looks like my bill has got some pretty good support behind it and hopefully we'll be able to get the measure passed," Representative Ortiz said.

If the bill passes, Representative Ortiz is hoping to conduct safety research eventually leading to an outright ban on texting while driving. He's also hoping to work with the authors of similar bills in an effort to get everyone on board with one version then send it to the House for a final vote.