AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — The House Committee on Transportation unanimously approved House Bill 62, a bill that would make texting and driving illegal statewide, during a hearing Thursday morning.
HB 62 allows drivers to text in emergency situations and the bill does not include using GPS. Violators could be fined up to $99 for a first offense and a maximum $200 for any offense after that.
This is the fourth time lawmakers have attempted to pass this type of legislation in Texas.
The bill’s author, State Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, says he is confident that this year it will pass both legislative chambers. “We got to pass it on the House floor first and then we will go to the Senate and work with it,” Craddick said. “The lieutenant governor has told me he supports it, so I think that we’ve got a pretty good chance.”
Before passing the bill through the committee, members heard emotional testimony from families who lost loved ones to texting and driving.
James Shaffer told lawmakers that Thursday would be his wife Emma’s 42nd birthday. Shaffer’s wife and daughter were killed in a car crash last year in Denton.
“We would have already celebrated it three times from singing happy birthday in the morning to having breakfast,” Shaffer said. “I would never imagine in a million years that this is what we would be doing.”
Shaffer asked lawmakers to pass House Bill 62 in remembrance of his wife and daughter. “At the end of the day we have to deal with this loss. A heavy, heavy loss,” Shaffer said. “And all because of a text message? Come on.”
Critics of the bill argue a statewide ban would be an infringement on Texans rights. Others say they are concerned that $200 isn’t enough of a deterrent. Fines in some Texas cities with current citywide bans are up to $500.
Right now Texas is one of four states in the country without a statewide ban on texting and driving.
The Senate State Affairs Committee will take up Senate Bill 31 on Monday. That bill would also create a statewide ban on sending and reading messages behind the wheel.