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“Driving While Cellphoning”

Restrictions on using cellphones while driving are on the agenda for the 79th Lege.

In the upcoming 79th Texas Legislature, lawmakers will consider bills by [Sen. Rodney] Ellis and fellow Democrat Rep. Jose Menendez of San Antonio, that allow only hands-free cell phones while driving, except for calls to emergency responders.

Under Menendez’s House Bill 237, violators could pay fines ranging from $25 to $100 outside a school crossing zone and $125 to $200 inside a school zone.


Taking a different approach, Sen. Kel Selinger, R-Amarillo, is seeking to ban the use of all telephones while driving for those under 18 with restricted licenses for novice drivers.

I confess, I have used my cellphone while driving. I generally didn’t have a compelling reason for not pulling over or waiting until I reached my destination. I don’t do it that often, but I do it more often than I should.

There seems to be a fairly compelling public safety case for restricting cellphone usage, even handsfree usage, while driving. I can go along with that, though I have to wonder how effectively such restrictions will be enforced – a passing cop should be able to see a phone pressed to your ear, but will he or she be able to tell if you’ve got an earbud and speakerphone going or if you’re just talking/singing along with the radio? I hope someone has thought that part of it through.

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  1. Ellen says:

    Would this bill introduce a whole new reason for police to pull you over, and then ask for permission to search the car? Just wondering.

  2. William Hughes says:

    New York and New Jersey already have similar laws. I think both states require “hands-free” sets in order to use cell phones while driving.

  3. Lee says:

    Once again, legistators wasting time on bullshit issues. Rather than give the police one more reason to stop you and perform an illegal search, how about just providing a contributory addition to any law already on the books. Double the fine if speeding and talking. Double the time in jail if talking and you run over somebody. Much more effective and doesn’t penalize those of us that can handle talking on the phone and driving at the same time. Laws like for cellphone abuse should be the same as seatbelt laws. Never a sole reason to pull a driver over, but can be added to any other infraction that does occur.

    Oh, and the NY and NJ laws are, as I would expect would happen in TX, largely unefforced. But, boy oh boy, can somebody take credit for the law. And yet, school finance get ignored.

    Oh the joy of professional polititians.

  4. Michael says:

    Hey, I’ve got an idea! Maybe they can install cameras to detect when your’re talking on your phone in your car and send you a civil fine. They can install them in the ten most common intersections where cell-phones are used. I wonder if it’s the same set as the most commonly run red lights.

  5. David in NY says:

    Good. You folks talking on the phone while you drive are a complete menace — swerving, driving in two lanes, not seeing pedestrians. I’ve driven behind you and I know. As the fellows on Car Talk say — drive now, talk later.

  6. Mathwiz says:

    I’d lean in favor of laws like this, though the enforcement question is a good one. I don’t even own a cell phone, but I frequently argue with the radio, or even just talk to myself, in the car. Could those actions get me pulled over?

    And I wonder if “enforcement” would entail even more listening in on cell-phone conversations (illegal for you and me, but perfectly OK for the “law,” even without a warrant, the Supremes say) – which is a primary reason I don’t have a cell phone.

  7. Tim says:

    Hang up and drive!

  8. Steve Bates says:

    Sigh again.

    If you’re absolutely motionless in traffic on I-10 inbound in rush hour, are you permitted to phone your spouse? i.e., when your car is standing still, are you still “driving” for purposes of this law?

    On freeway trips likely to last more than about 10 minutes, I wear a hands-free headset throughout the trip. It works fine. Anyone who is still a menace to other drivers even while wearing a headset shouldn’t be allowed on the road in the first place, with or without a cell phone. And if I get a call when I’m not wearing the headset, I just tell the caller I’ll call them back. This is not a difficult problem. It does not need yet another draconian law to “solve” it.

    I have a better idea. Let’s just ban automobiles in Houston and build rail lines down every freeway. No cars… no problem. (Just kidding, folks; chill out!)

  9. Mathwiz says:

    An interesting point, Steve. Ideally, the law should only apply to phoning while moving, but I doubt anyone’s thought it out that far. (The DUI law applies even if you’re just sitting in traffic, but that makes more sense since you’re unlikely to sober up before things start moving again.) However, both proposals exempt hands-free cellphone use by adults – read Kuff’s post again. I don’t see where you have anything to worry about from these proposals; nor do the proposed fines seem particularly “draconian.”

  10. Brawly says:

    I think that if you can handle your emotions accordingly to the actions you are taking and still remain in control of yourself you should be allowed to use cell phones while driving. If you are to incompitant to do such the don’t use it while driving. It’s as simple as that. Does anyone think that’s difficult? If you do, post it directly reffering to me and I shall try to help you understand, perhaps you could even persuade me otherwise should your intelligence be sufficient 🙂

  11. Student says:

    These laws that limit cell phone usage are absolutely ridiculous! Why not give someone a ticket while they’re drinking a cup of coffee and driving at the same time? Is the driver allowed to talk to anyone? What about passengers? Can the driver talk to passengers? What if its a long and involved conversation and the facial expressions of the driver and passenger indicate the driver is not paying attention to the road? Isn’t this just as distracting? Why not keep people from smoking in their own car too? Maybe people who do not have both hands on the wheel (barring a handicap) should receive a ticket too! A ticket for using your celllphone while driving is $100! I can run a stop sign and pay only $50! This is all so stupid! Think for a moment! Think on how ridiculous it is to try and regulate a person’s driving! What if I drive perfectly fine while using a cellphone? Than what?! (sorry bout the long rant, but I got a ticket for this yesterday)–Bob from Long Island New york

  12. sfdfs says:

    Everyone is so upset about the new laws erupting across the nation regarding cell phone headsets while driving. Get over it! We’re lucky they don’t ban cell phones altogether. They are a distraction, they do cause problems, and cell phone headsets will make it a little safer. Hopefully the jackasses that are so upset about it will just not use their phones altogether and will focus on the road so the rest of us can commute safely.

  13. Bob Builder says:

    I personally am not in favor with the law. I think it’s simple to talk and drive at the same time. If you can’t do something as simple as hold a conversation and drive you shouldn’t even be allowed in a car.

  14. Maria says:

    I think that cellphoning while driving is sometimes dangerous if you are not a multi-tasker. So I believe that everyone should have headsets if they want to talk and drive.