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Mayor will seek texting-while-driving ban

One more agenda item before it’s all over.

It’s not the first time Houston officials have broached the issue; Mayor Annise Parker has long lobbied to impose a Texaswide texting-while-driving ban. But months after another legislative session with no action, term-limited Parker said she would ask council members to consider a local ban before she leaves office at the end of the year.

The danger of using cell phones while driving is well documented, increasing crash risks by more than 23 percent, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. In 46 states and the District of Columbia, texting while driving is already banned. Though Texas is one of the few states without such a law, 40 cities including San Antonio and Austin have already opted to enact a local ban.

The city’s public safety committee considered those statistics and two proposed laws Thursday: the first a citywide ban on texting while driving and the second an effort to enforce the existing state ban on texting and cellular phone use in school zones by posting signs. Parker has faced some criticism in recent months because the city has not installed school zone signs, citing costs, and had issued no citations as of September.

“We ought to ban it citywide, that would certainly be my preference,” Parker said earlier this fall. “But I don’t know where the council is on this, and it is certainly a big policy initiative. I think we should have banned it statewide, so of course I’m supporting it here.”

Posting citywide signage is also significantly cheaper than doing so in school zones, according to Jeffrey Weatherford, deputy public works director. There are nearly 8,000 school-zone entry points, costing between $1 million and $1.4 million to appropriately alert drivers. State law prohibits handheld cell phone use in school zones, but the city has not installed the warning signs to enforce that ban.

But if the city were to opt for a Houstonwide ban, they would need to mark just 44 entry points with two signs, costing about $55,000.

While the Parker administration directed the public works department to study the cost of a texting ban, Weatherford said he would recommend City Council take up a prohibition that covers all cellular phone use while driving.

See here for more on the school zone issue. This is not the first time the subject of texting while driving has come up in Houston. There are questions about how effective such bans are, how they can be reasonably enforced, and whether they just provide another pretext for police officers to pull people over, but no one doubts that texting while driving is a dumb and dangerous thing to do. My thinking is that there are people who will do a given thing when it is legal but who will stop doing it if it becomes illegal, so passing the law against it will reduce the number of people who do it even if enforcement is next to impossible. As such, I support texting-while-driving bans. I suspect the votes will be there on Council to do it, so we’ll see what the recommended ordinance looks like.

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12 Comments

  1. paul kubosh says:

    At the risk of sounding self serving. I agree.

  2. Joshua ben bullard says:

    Mayor parker refused to present city legislation that would have made it a city crime for people to smoke in cars with children,I will oppose the mayor on this attempt-i will win.joshua

  3. Paul kubosh says:

    Go get em Joshua

  4. becky says:

    I think it’s a good idea – I’m just not sure how effective it will be. But maybe it is good to have it “on the books”….

  5. matx says:

    I would not miss glancing in my rear view mirror at a stop and seeing the driver behind me with his or her eyes downcast and the tell-tale bluish glow on their face.

  6. Manuel Barrera says:

    I see why Paul would love that ordinance, just like I understood why he did not like the red light cameras.

    Just who is going to issue the citations, the same police officers that issue speeding violations? It is a good policy but difficult to enforce unless you are next to them to see if they are texting. I doubt that too many people will be stopped as the phone records gives one a perfect alibi to accuse of racial profiling. But one can never under estimate a person’s capacity for stupidity.

  7. Paul Kubosh says:

    I can see why people get so bent out of shape when Manuel assumes things he knows nothing about.

  8. Manuel Barrera says:

    Paul, was business down when the red light cameras in effect? That is a yes or no question.

    Are municipal violations the primary source of your job as an attorney? That is a yes or no question.

    Could be that there were other motivating factors besides job related. I am open to hear them.

    I don’t see Paul getting bent out of shape because something is not true. So why would Paul be bent out of shape?

    Paul would a city violation, like texting while driving having any effect other than one’s pocket book?

  9. Paul Kubosh says:

    Paul, was business down when the red light cameras in effect? That is a yes or no question.

    NO, ALSO WHEN THEY HAD CAMERAS THE SPRING BEFORE THE ELECTION THE CITY OF HOUSTON H.P.D. ISSUED MORE CITATIONS THAN THEY EVER DID IN THE HISTORY OF KEEPING RECORDS.

    RED LIGHT CAMERAS WAS THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO THE KUBOSH FAMILY. WE PUT EVERYTHING WE HAD BEHIND THAT FIGHT. MOST PEOPLE DON’T UNDERSTAND THAT.

    I ALREADY SAID THAT WRITING TICKETS FOR TEXTING WHILE DRIVING WOULD BENEFIT ME.

    EVER SINCE THAT LAST RANT YOU MADE AFTER YOU MISREAD MY POST I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER TO RESPOND DIRECTLY TO YOUR COMPLETE LACK OF KNOWLEDGE OF THE RED LIGHT CAMERA FIGHT.

  10. Bill Daniels says:

    Manuel, the Kubosh brothers could be found with kilos of cocaine and dead hookers in their trunks, and they would STILL be heros in my book. As to the texting and driving law, I think it would be difficult to enforce, except at traffic lights, but I would be OK with it, although if we are going to position cops standing at traffic lights, I’d prefer they bust people for littering, which I see all the time. Too many people treat intersections as their own personal trash dump.

  11. Manuel Barrera says:

    Paul are you yelling? Why are you so upset? Did I hit a nerve?

    Paul I know people that refer cases (traffic and criminal) and how they get paid. I, also, know which law firms they refer them to.

    I appreciate that you and your brother fought that fight to get rid of the cameras, it was bad for the minority communities.

    Paul, Joshua is a good person, keep that in mind.

    Have a great day Paul.

    Bill if they are stopped at a red light, would that be considered texting while driving? If yes, that is not what the law is suppose to prevent is it?

    Bill with few exceptions we do things for a reason, money tends to be number one, the other it makes us feel good to help people. Having stated that most business people that want to do something because it is right would not be as interested in people knowing who is being good.

    Paul, one question, only one Spring how about the rest of the time, as the cameras were up for years. Just want to make sure that you are not using numbers to deceive. You know what they say, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.

    Remember Joshua is a good person. Have a great day.

  12. Manuel Barrera says:

    Why not have your brother propose an ordinance that prohibits smoking in a car if a child, under 18 is in the car? That is a question for Paul. Wait a minute that is very nanny like, kinda like all the those Eleanor Tinsley ordinances. We don’t have Joshua go get them do we, Felix is in a much better position.

    http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Longtime-Houston-councilwoman-Tinsley-dies-at-82-1722936.php