Perry cited “the overreach of House Bill 242” and called it a “government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults.”
Texas already bans texting by teens. The bill would have extended that ban to all drivers. The veto means distracted driving legislation succeeded in 2011, although there were at least a dozen bills seeking to toughen the existing laws. There are numerous local laws against text messaging while in city limits.
The Republican governor suggested that backers of distracted driving legislation divert their efforts toward education.
“The keys to dissuading drivers of all ages from texting while driving are information and education,” Perry said in his veto statement. “I recommend additional education on this issue in driving safety and driver’s education courses, public service ads.”
The planned “intrusion into Texans’ lives,” as the governor put it, started life as a bill regarding the right to carry sidearms by retired law officers. The author was Rep. Tom Craddick, whose rejected distracted driving legislation HB 243 sought to ban text messaging while driving. The amendment to the firearms bill was sponsored by state Sen. Judith Zaffirini. It essentially revived her texting bill SB 46.
The Senate (28-3) and House (80-61) approved the amended HB 242 with relative ease, in votes taken May 29.
The amended bill would have prohibited a driver from reading, writing or sending a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle, unless the vehicle is stopped. Opponents said drivers would be penalized for simply receiving a text message while behind the wheel.
“Texting while driving is reckless and irresponsible,” Perry said late Friday. “I support measures that make our roads safer for everyone, but House Bill 242 is a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults.
“Current law already prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from texting or using a cell phone while driving. I believe there is a distinction between the overreach of House Bill 242 and the government’s legitimate role in establishing laws for teenage drivers who are more easily distracted and laws providing further protection to children in school zones.”
The governor wasn’t singling out distracted driving legislation for a veto. He killed another 22 bills Friday, with a personal best (or worst) of 83 bills vetoed in 2000, a record for Texas.
Perry’s name has been tossed around as a possible GOP candidate for president. Perry said he wouldn’t address the issue until the legislature adjourned, and is “certainly giving it the appropriate thought process.”
“Our country is in trouble,” he said.
Read the Texas distracted driving news page.