Last November, when state Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, filed House Bill 63 — his second legislative attempt in two years to ban texting while driving — we hoped for its passage and understood that our lives might very well depend on it. In a Jan. 31 editorial, we urged Gov. Rick Perry to reconsider his previous outspoken disapproval of such legislation. In 2011, Perry vetoed a similar bill, also filed by Craddick. His rationale at the time, provided by a spokesperson, claimed that “the key to dissuading drivers from texting while driving is information and education, not government and mismanagement.”
Unfortunately, Perry’s most recent remarks on the subject echo his 2011 statement, almost verbatim.
The Austin American-Statesman reports that, on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Gov. Perry reiterated his disdain for regulation of adults in their automobiles, calling the texting-while-driving ban an example of “government micromanagement.”
Meanwhile, claims of micromanagement aside, distracted drivers kill more than 15 victims in the United States each day and injure 1,200 others, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. One need simply look down the street for evidence that Austin is imperiled by phone-wielding drivers. On Friday, a Travis County jury recommended 10 years’ probation for Gabrielle Nestande for criminally negligent homicide. Nestande had testified that she was checking her phone’s alarm clock setting when her car fatally struck Courtney Griffin, an Austin resident.
Perry has acknowledged the dangers of distracted drivers, noting in a 2011 press release that “texting while driving is reckless and irresponsible.” But, undeterred, he still argues that legislation like HB-63 is an affront to adult Texans’ personal freedoms — the freedom to make dangerous decisions that imperil others’ lives, apparently. Instead, we contend that Perry should reconsider his obligation as Texas’ top executive. As governor, Perry is responsible for implementing and enforcing the law to keep us safe. His 2011 veto, which seems likely to be repeated in 2013, constitutes negligence on his part to protect the rest of us from the clear danger presented by distracted drivers.
Measures to educate and inform drivers, though necessary, are not enough. Perry’s appeal to ideologues who contend that texting while driving is a personal freedom worth protecting threatens the safety of all Texans. Texas roads, which fall under government jurisdiction and are among the most likely places for Texans to meet their demise, must be made safer, even if it means a little “micromanagement.”