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HB 62: The first step in stopping distracted driving accidents

Back in March, we wrote a post detailing the passage of House Bill 62, a bill that is designed to save lives by making it illegal to text and drive anywhere in Texas. By May, the Senate had also passed the bill and at the start of last month, Governor Greg Abbott had signed the bill into law.

Despite quick legislative movement, however, many are still left wondering: Will this piece of legislation be enough to stop the more than 10,000 motor vehicle accidents that occur in our state each year?

For Gov. Abbott, the answer is clearly no.

At present time, nearly a dozen cities in Texas already have laws in place regarding cellphone use while driving, creating a "patchwork of regulations that dictate driving practices in Texas." This can be confusing for drivers, Gov. Abbott hinted at in a recent Texas Tribune article. He is now calling for broader legislation that "pre-empts local ordinances," a move that could lead to stricter regulations on mobile device use while behind the wheel.

Stricter regulations may be necessary

While those who opposed HB 62 initially may also oppose stricter mobile device regulations, there may be some merit to this move.

Texting and driving often garners more attention in the distracted driving debate because it takes our eyes off the road, which can and does lead to vehicle collisions. But as an April 2012 Psychology Today article points out, our brains are "not capable of fully concentrating on two things simultaneously." Even talking on the phone while driving can be dangerous because it taxes our "cognitive load," which causes us to be less effective drivers.

That's not all. Things like using GPS navigation, using speech-to-text functions, loading music or a podcast, or any other activity on a mobile device can all take our eyes off the road just as easily as texting can. This is something HB 62 currently doesn't address, which is something Sen. Larry Taylor took particular notice of prior to the bill's passage.

Although HB 62 isn't perfect, it is a step in the right direction. We may benefit more from legislation that bans all use on mobile devices while in control of a motor vehicle. While this won't eliminate all distracted driving accidents altogether, it would at least mitigate the number of cases caused by cellphone use. 

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