Craddick files distracted driving bill

DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas (KXAN) — What was once a teenager’s truck… a family missing their loved one… the cell phone that killed a high school senior three years ago. These are the teaching tools Jeanne Brown hopes high school students across Texas find hard to forget.

"I know some kids will walk away thinking it's never going to happen to me,” said Brown. “Our daughter did that."

In 2009, Brown’s 17-year-old daughter – a Lubbock area high school senior – died texting friends on the way to school. Her family now has a mission, traveling to schools to share their story with students.

Last legislative session, Brown tried to teach that lesson to lawmakers, with Alex's truck outside the State Capitol and the backing of a bill in the Texas House meant to ban the driving distraction statewide.

In the end, both chambers passed the legislation, but it was among 23 bills Gov. Rick Perry vetoed. He agreed texting while driving “is reckless and irresponsible” but said a ban would be “a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults.”

“The Texas Legislature has a responsibility to give our law enforcement officers the tools they need to make our roadways safer,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, who named the bill in honor of Alex. “It is my hope that lawmakers can pass this bipartisan supported legislation during the upcoming legislative session in order to make our roads safer.”

Craddick’s office filed a similar bill on Monday, the first day lawmakers could pre-file legislation for the upcoming Legislative Session, which convenes in January.

Last week, Alex’s family visited Dripping Springs High School, and it was not the first time they had stopped by in the three years since her death. They usually hit up the same schools more than once, knowing sometimes it takes a reminder before the message sinks in.

"I don't want my siblings to ever have to go through that, and I don't want my parents to ever have to plan my funeral,” said Ellen Atwood, Dripping Springs High School student.

Brown’s hope is that reminder will work with lawmakers and the governor this time around, too.

"Your life can never be replaced,” she said. “You're one of a kind, and you're special. The choices you make can affect so many people."

Craddick’s bill has some exceptions for drivers. You would still be able to dial a number on your phone, use your GPS, or use a hands-free device.

The state already bans texting in school zones. And state law also bans drivers under age 18 from texting behind the wheel.

Cradick's office says around 25 Texas cities - including Austin - have laws to ban texting while driving. He also said 39 others states and the District of Columbia have the ban.

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