To all those who haven’t been keeping track, the month of April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and we are just about a third of the way in. To honor the occasion, Mayor Annise Parker has embarked on an ambitious campaign to bar millions of Houston drivers from fiddling with their cell phones behind the wheel. This of course follows a national trend that over the last few years has seen texting banned in other cities and states, as well as countless studies done on the safety of in-vehicle mobile use.
The Mayor’s campaign, titled “It Can Wait” is a hyper-aggressive push toward lowering texting and driving related accidents. With AT&T’s aid and the promotion of local Houston heavyweight Bun B, The University of Houston, Rice University, and Texas Southern University, the movement is already off to a seemingly promising start. Local support has been high as the Mayor aims to make the movement accessible to the youth, the most affected group, by enlisting the help of Houston Police and Fire Departments to provide workshops to local high schools.
Texas has toyed with the idea of enacting a statewide ban on texting while driving for some time now, mainly as a reaction to a 2011 study done by Texas A&M University highlighting the effects cellphone use has on reaction time (it doubles, in case you were wondering). Governor Perry had other ideas however, calling the then legislation “micro-management” and vetoing it.
The Mayor’s new campaign will be staunchly backed by real legislation, whether the Texas Legislature passes any of the current pending legislation or not. The Public Safety Committee, will review a new ordinance Wednesday that seeks to ban texting and assign a $500 fine to those failing to observe.
If the ordinance does make it through in the near future, there will be a price to pay for texting while driving in the city of Houston, despite the State or Governor’s stance on the issue.