Texting while driving became illegal in Bellaire Monday night when the city council passed a new law that is identical to legislation passed just hours earlier in West University Place.
“We have so many distractions in the driving process today, and I think texting is something we can do without,” said Councilman Pat McLaughlan, who put the item on the council’s agenda. “I simply think it’s the right thing to do.”
The law makes it illegal for drivers to send electronic messages, including texts, emails and surfing the web. Drivers could still make phone calls, text while pulled to the side of the road, communicate with emergency personnel at any time, and they could text if they feared for their lives.
During the voting process, council members decided to change the law to clearly indicate that drivers are not allowed to text while stopped at red lights or stop signs. They changed the wording to indicate that people cannot text “while operating a motor vehicle in a driving lane.”
The West U. City Council just hours earlier had debated the same change, and Bellaire council members heard about it from City Attorney Alan Petrov, who holds the same position in West U. Petrov originally based the ordinance he wrote on a City of Austin law that passed earlier this fall and goes into effect in January.
Councilwoman Peggy Faulk said she preferred the unrevised law, which said texting was illegal in a “moving vehicle” instead of in a “driving lane,” as the revision states.
“You could be texting in a parking lot and still cause an accident,” Faulk said. But she supported the end result regardless.
“Typically I’m against too many laws. This is one I would support because there have been some horrendous accidents of people who have been driving and texting at the same time,” said Councilwoman Peggy Faulk. “It’s unbelievable that people do it, but they do it.”
Petrov said the city must publish a notice in a newspaper and then wait 10 days until the texting-while-driving ban becomes effective. The city also plans to install traffic signs to inform drivers that the activity is illegal.
“This one, it just passes the common sense test,” said Councilman Phil Nauert. “I honestly believe there’s no safe way in the world to text while driving.”