Pro: Texting, talking on phone distract drivers, cause accidents

Dec. 29, 2013 at 6:29 a.m.

Connie Salinas was on Sam Houston Drive near Hastings recently when a driver was backing out of a business into oncoming traffic.

Backing up and paying attention is one thing, but when the 25-year-old, who balances being a mom and psychology major noticed the driver was not stopping, that's when her heart dropped into the pit of her stomach.

Salinas honked, and though her car was not struck, when she looked back at the car, she noticed why the driver was so distracted - she was on her cellphone.

This wasn't the first time Salinas has seen people driving while either talking or texting.

Salinas knows it won't be the last time she sees it. She said she thinks Victoria and other cities should follow in the footsteps of Corpus Christi, which in October created an ordinance that banned hand-held cellphone use while driving.

"I think if a person is talking and driving, a fine should be given," said Salinas, who admits to having used her phone while driving. "If a law were passed to where I could no longer do it, then I would change my habit to pulling over to do so."

Mark Scott, Corpus Christi City Council member at-large, said the ordinance has made a difference.

Corpus Christi's City Council voted on the ordinance unanimously after the city's police chief presented a proposal. The ordinance was in response to an increased number of auto-pedestrian and bicyclist wrecks in which those at fault admitted to using their cellphones.

Corpus Christi drivers' main use of cellphones happened to be texting, Scott said.

"The council was very supportive," he said. "It just came time to do it."

Fines reach as high as $500, and even those who may have been opposed to the ordinance, Scott said, have come around.

Cellphone use was a contributing factor in 3,283 Texas crashes, according to the National Safety Council, and for this reason, Victoria Police Chief J.J. Craig favors the idea to ban hand-held cellphone use while driving in Victoria.

A ban, Craig said, is not in the works, but the issue has been preliminarily reviewed.

"I'm a strong proponent for any type of law that would preclude cellphone use while driving," he said.

Of the wrecks that happen in Victoria, close to half of those are cellphone-related, though the vast majority are minor in damage and injury, he said.

However, tracking exactly how many wrecks were caused by cellphone distraction is difficult because the item is not listed as a trackable piece of data on incident reports, he said.

Craig, who once worked in Long Beach, Calif., said that state issued a law banning the use of cellphones, and there was a significant decrease in accidents.

"We're monitoring it, and we've thought of something similar," Craig said. "We're not ready to go forward."

Meanwhile, drivers such as Salinas will continue to keep an eye on not only other drivers but also herself.

"Being fined may be the only way to prevent such a problem because there aren't many privileges that can be taken away from a driver," she said.

Con: Ban would be difficult to enforce



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