Texas is one of 4 states that have not passed a statewide ban on texting and driving. The fourth attempt to do that cleared the state house Transportation Committee Thursday morning.
James Shaffer and his 10 year old son drove to Austin Thursday so they could be in a state house committee room. Shaffer never imagined he'd make this trip - on this day -- because –it’s his wife's birthday.
"We would have already celebrated it three times, from singing happy birth day in the morning, to having breakfast , we'd be having lunch at school right now with the kids, we'd be planning her dinner tonight, I mean this is unbelievable,” said Shaffer.
It’s unbelievable because of what happened back in April. A head on collision claimed the lives of Emma Shaffer and their daughter Tita. Investigators, Shaffer says, told him the driver of the car that hit the Volvo his wife and daughter were in, and was texting at the time.
"That set me over the edge, and the first thing I did is went to cities and said this is ridiculous we need to get the law change,” said Shaffer.
Shaffer helped get a texting and driving ban in Denton and is now putting his support behind HB 62. The legislation would ban texting a driving statewide and was filed by Representative Tom Craddick; it’s his 4th try.
"I’m not going to give up, I’m very passionate,” said the Republican from Midland.
After Craddick's legislation didn't pass in the 2011 session- TX DOT recorded 415 deaths due to distracted driving. Failure in 2013 was followed by 464 deaths -- and 475 after the session in 2015.
"I think the number of deaths, the number of damage to property that’s been happening, the number of states saying we are seeing a reduction after we pass the law, it all helps put us in the forefront,” said Craddick.
It’s been a long journey of frustrating near misses. One attempt made it all the way to the desk of Governor Rick Perry but he vetoed it saying it was a government overreach. Another attempt cleared the house but never made it to the senate floor for debate. But this year supporters believe all their hard work will finally pay off."
"It is very difficult, but I think of my daughter,” said Mike Myers.
Myers has been pushing for a texting ban since his daughter, Elana, was killed in a crash in 2014.
"We don’t want another family to go through the same sort of tragedy and pain we have an unfortunately that’s happening every day,” said Myers.
Representative Craddick believes his Bill can break the habit of texting and driving, and ease some of the heartache that can come with it.
"It’s like seat belts, nobody was going to wear a seat belt, or very few people, now they testify that 95% people wear it,” said Craddick.
If signed into law, violating the ban would be a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $200 for repeat offenders. It would take effect in September.
HB 62 was moved out of the House Transportation Committee on a unanimous vote. It will now go to the House floor for debate. A companion bill, from the Senate is expected to get its first hearing next week.