Surviving family members who lost loved ones on Texas highways call for statewide ban on texting and driving

Several families who lost loved ones to drivers who were distracted joined a bipartisan collection of state lawmakers Tuesday to call for passage of a bill to ban texting and driving statewide in Texas.

As speakers took turns addressing media and legislative staffers, several people who had family members die on Texas roads sat on a panel in a committee room in the Capitol and held photos of the ones they lost. They came to Austin to send a message to legislators and Gov. Greg Abbott about the need to ban texting and driving on Texas roadways.

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said she had been working in three previous sessions to pass the ban without success. In 2013, the Legislature approved a statewide ban, only to see Gov. Rick Perry reject it, saying it amounted to a micromanagement of the behavior of adults.

“I am more optimistic in this session, than I was last session,” Zaffirini said.

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Abbott told the senator that he is waiting to see the form the proposals will take before deciding if one of them should get his signature, making it a law, Zaffirini told reporters.

But Abbott’s level of support remains rather unclear.

In a statement issued during his campaign, spokesman Matt Hirsch said that then-Attorney General Abbott was “an assertive advocate against texting and driving” who “supports laws already in place that prohibit cellphone use by young drivers and in school zones.”

But Hirsch also said in the same statement that Abbott “is against additional government mandates that micromanage adult driving behavior.”

At the event in the Capitol extension, a tearful Jeanne Brown of Wellman spoke as she clutched a photo of her daughter Alex, who died at 17 years old in 2009 after a crash that occurred while she was texting while driving.

“This is how I hold my baby now,” Brown said.

Texas leads the nation in many notable ways, Brown said, but not in ending distracted driving.

“We’re a little behind,” she said. “It’s time for us to step up.”

Senate Bill 25 by Zaffirini and House Bill 80 by Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, are named in honor of Alex Brown.

Tracy Myers of Austin was another of the grieving parents in attendance at the event. She lost her daughter Elana Myers in April as she drove home from Texas Tech University.

Myers wasn’t sure what occurred when her daughter crashed, but she knows that the rural stretch of highway where the accident occurred between Lubbock and Austin wasn’t covered by one of the more than 40 Texas city ordinances — like the one in Austin — that bans texting and driving.

“We want to make sure you’re safe on all of the roads in Texas,” she said.

Also at the press conference, making perhaps the most heart-wrenching presentation, were the five children of the Berry family from Houston.

A crash in 2011 killed the kids’ parents — Joshua and Robin Berry — and left two of the boys in wheelchairs. On Tuesday, the family took turns speaking and imploring legislators to pass the texting and driving ban.

“It took a split second to change our lives forever,” said young Misha Berry. “Our goal is to support safe, responsible driving.”

Reader Comments 0

2 comments
HorseLips
HorseLips

It is my god-given right to text while driving down the highway at 85 mph.  You can have my cellphone when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers!  Yeehaw!  Pow! Pa-pow!! Pow!

cheat-to-win
cheat-to-win

The tradeoff is if you want to risk your life driving in Gregory Wayne Abbott's Texas, do so at your own peril. Because of Abbott, you know you will be facing distracted drivers whose telephone calls and texts will trump your safety and our traffic laws more times than not. This isn't the first example, and will not be the last, of the ways our self-loathing governor will seek to ruin our state. All the heartless hypocrite cares about is sucking up to his campaign contributors and his know-nothing tea party base. The tea partiers are convinced they can safely simultaneously drive, smoke a cigarette, change their baby's diaper, and text to their child to pick up McDonald's for the family dinner on their way home from school.