Texas lawmakers push cell phone restriction

| 3/11/2003

Texas lawmakers are pushing legislation that would require drivers to keep their hands off the phone.

The House State Affairs Committee heard testimony earlier this month on two bills that would ban hand-held cell phone use while driving. Talking on a phone equipped with a “hands-free” device would still be permitted.

Under HB624, sponsored by state Rep. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, a driver stopped for using a hand-held phone could be fined up to $100, or up to $200 if the offense occurs within a school zone.

Menendez’s bill would exempt emergency calls.

State Rep. Paul Moreno, D-El Paso, is sponsoring HB281, which essentially is a blanket ban on drivers using hand-held phones.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, has filed a similar bill, SB390, regarding cell phone use, but it has not been set for a hearing yet.

“We aren’t talking about banning cell phones,” Menendez told The Dallas Morning News. “But can you be a safer operator while operating your phone?”

Mobile phone use was tied to eight fatalities in the state in 2000, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. It was a contributing factor in 716 accidents that year.

Currently, New York has the only statewide law restricting cell phone use in vehicles, the newspaper reported.