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Lubbock City Council pushes cell phone ban in legislative agenda

TMCNet:  Lubbock City Council pushes cell phone ban in legislative agenda

[December 19, 2012]

Lubbock City Council pushes cell phone ban in legislative agenda

Dec 19, 2012 (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Lubbock city leaders are calling for state legislators to toughen state laws regarding the use of cell phones and other mobile devices while driving.

The city will advocate for a statewide law on mobile devices in hopes of increasing safety on roadways and providing standardization from city to city as part of the Lubbock's 2013 legislative agenda approved Monday night by Lubbock's City Council.

Including the issue on the legislative agenda followed a month of council discussion on government's role in regulating personal behavior and whether such a law should come from municipalities or state government.

"I think, in fairness to the citizens of the state of Texas, it needs to be a statewide issue," Councilman Jim Gerlt said. "Whereas Amarillo has one set of laws, Abilene might have a different set of laws. All of them may have a different set. That's why I think it's important that we have a statewide ban on this." Mayor Glen Robertson said statewide legislation would remove drivers' uncertainty about the law while traveling through the state.

"I would love to have continuity across the state and I think it's truly one of those issues that is a statewide issue, so I support them making statewide laws," he said.

Robertson added: "I don't like laws that protect me from me, but I do want laws that protect me from other folks." Councilman Todd Klein opposed letting the Legislature take the lead, saying mobile device legislation should come from the local level, if at all.

New mobile device legislation would be redundant, he said, as the state already has a reckless driving law. Texas' reckless driving law states: "A person commits an offense if the person drives a vehicle in wilful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property." A reckless driving offense is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $200 and up to 30 days in jail." The Texas Legislature passed a law in 2009 prohibiting use of wireless devices in a school zone, which is currently in effect. Lawmakers passed legislation in 2011 prohibiting texting while driving, but it was vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry before it became law.

Former Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, and other legislators filed texting ban bills early in the pre-filing period for the 2013 session.

As he did last time, Craddick named his bill the Alex Brown Memorial Act, after a 17-year-old Seagraves High School student who was killed in a rollover crash when she was texting and driving in November 2009.

The legislature convenes Jan. 8 and the last day to file bills is March 8.

Last month, Lubbock police Chief Roger Ellis said he was open to and encouraged by talk of a mobile device restriction.

"There's a lot of traffic accidents that occur, a lot of traffic violations that occur due to texting or cellphone use," he said.

But he questioned the feasibility of an officer enforcing a ban.

"The question is: How would an officer know the difference whether somebody is texting or plugging in coordinates in the GPS," he said.

Councilman Victor Hernandez pushed for a cellphone ban for drivers when former Mayor Tom Martin was in office, but said the effort fizzled out as the state Legislature considered, but ultimately passed on a texting ban.

He said he supports the idea as much as he did before.

To comment on this story: adam.young@lubbockonline.com -- 766-8725 leesha.faulkner@lubbockonline.com -- 766-8706 2013 Texas Legislature dates -- Nov. 12, 2012 -- first day to pre-file bills -- Jan. 8, 2013 -- legislature convenes in Austin -- March 8, 2013 -- last day to file bills -- May 27, 2013 -- last day of 83rd Regular Session ___ (c)2012 the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Lubbock, Texas) Visit the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Lubbock, Texas) at www.lubbockonline.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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