New Texas Texting law will cover many more people, but Senate Bill 15 may actually weaken texting and driving laws in some Texas cities.
On June 6, 2017, Governor Abbott signed into a law a measure that bans texting while driving state wide.
On July 26, 2017, the Texas Senate passed a bill that waters down already existing restrictions in many Texas cities that are even stronger than the Texas law, regarding driving while using a cell phone or texting while driving.
Governor Abbott has introduced new legislation in Texas to make cell phone laws uniform throughout the State of Texas. In other words, if a city in Texas has rules that are stricter than the State of Texas, then that part that is stricter will not be enforceable. The original law was not passed with this provision, but Governor Abbott indicated after the initial law was passed regulating cell phone use throughout the State of Texas, that he intended to introduce legislation making the law uniform throughout the state. The Texas Senate gave final approval on this bill (Senate Bill 15), and it is now going to the Texas House.
The state wide law in Texas that restricts texting and driving will protect more Texans, but may actually weaken cell phone usage, and texting and driving laws in certain cities in Texas.
We have identified 44 cities in Texas that already have stricter regulations on cell phone and texting use while driving than the Texas statute. Those cities have a total population of almost 4 million people. Additionally, there are another 51 Texas cities that already have regulations that are similar to or equivalent to the Texas statute. The population of those cities is about 3 million. Total, there are 95 Texas cities with about 7 million people that are already protected by cell phone and texting regulations. (See lists of cities that already have regulations below. There may be other cities not listed, as cities can pass restrictions on cell phone and texting as they feel the need).
Texas estimated total population is approximately 28 million. The state-wide statute actually protects or covers an additional 20-21 million people that were not covered by the already existing city laws.
The Texas statute restricting texting while driving will protect vastly more people than the city laws alone. The question is whether it is worth it to push through the "additional" new part of the bill - Senate Bill 15 that was just passed by the Texas Senate - if this new part of the bill does not make the law passed back on June 6, 2017 any stronger, and in fact will water down city laws that are already stronger than the Texas statute, and offer more protection than the Texas law.
A strong conservative argument is that many laws are best handled by locally. One city may experience more harm from texting and cell phone use during driving than another city. For example, college towns might want stronger laws since they have so many young and inexperienced drivers. Small towns between two or more larger cities with big highways running through them may feel their residents need stronger protection from the high traffic that goes through their city, and they may want stricter/stronger laws based on their own community's circumstances or situation. Some would argue that the "state" doesn't always know what is best for every single community. One size does not always fit all. The number of fatalities and injuries caused by cell phone use and texting while driving create a strong argument for a minimum standard across the State of Texas - and therefor a strong argument for a state-wide law enforcing minimum standards. But if a community feels it is still in danger, and needs even stronger restrictions, should we take that ability away?
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The following Texas cities have even stricter regulations than the new Texas statute.
Alice (19,576), Amarillo (199,582), Anthony (5298), Aransas Pass (9005), Argyle (3282), Bedford (48,592), Bee Cave (5287), Boerne (10,471), Buda (7295), College Station (110,095), Corpus Christi (320,434), Deer Park (32,010), Denton (113,383), El Paso (681,124), Floresville (6448), Garden Ridge (3259), Hill Country Village (1028), Kingsville (26,213), Kyle (34,000), Lake Dallas (7105), Lake Tanglewood (796), Lakeway (11,391), Laredo (244,731), Liberty Hill (1608), Little Elm (29,562), Midlothian (18,037), Mont Belvieu (3835), New Braunfels (66,394), Port Aransas (3480), Rollingwood (1412), San Antonio (1,469,845), San Juan (33,856), San Marcos (60,684), Schertz (34,833), Sealy (6019), Sinton (5665), Socorro (32,013), Sugar Land (88,156), Sunset Valley (749), Universal City (14,849), Watauga (23,497), West Lake Hills (3063), Wichita Falls (104,898), Wimberly (2626).
Texas cities with cell phone restrictions equivalent or similar to the Texas statute:
Alamo (18,965), Angleton (18,988), Arlington (392,772), Austin (947,890), Balcones Heights (3016), Bellaire (17,849), Big Lake (2936), Brazoria (3019), Brownsville (183,046), Canyon (13,303), Carrizo Springs (5368), Castle Hills (4424), Conroe (82,286), Converse (18,198), Edinburg (87,650), Farmers Branch (28,616), Fredericksburg (10,530), Galveston (50,180), Grand Prairie (183,372), Groesbeck (4328), Harlingen (74,849), Helotes (8104), Hereford (15,370), Hurst (37,337), Jacksonville (14,544), Laguna Vista (3117), Lockhart (12,698), Magnolia (1393), Maypearl (934), McAllen (12,877), Meadowlakes (1777), Midland (132,950), Mission (80,452), Missouri City (67,358), Mount Pleasant (15,564), Mount Vernon (2662), Nacogdoches (32,996), Overton (2554), Palmview (5460), Pampa (17,994), Pecos (8780), Penitas (4403), Pharr (70,400), Richwood (3510), Rowlett (60,236), San Angelo (100,450), San Benito (24,250), Seagoville (14,835), Seguin (27,864), Selma (9108), Shoreacres (1493), Snyder (11,202), Stephenville (17,123), Sunnyvale (5130),
Sweetwater (10,906), Tomball (10,753), West University Place (14,787), White Settlement (16,116), Windcrest (5364).
TOTAL Population of all cities in Texas that already have regulations restricting texting and cell phone use while driving: 6,939,922