Texas legislation could impact local hands free ordinance

WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - Texas lawmakers spent part of their Thursday getting people's thoughts on a state bill that could impact Wichita Falls. The Texas Senate passed a bill to ban texting and driving statewide.

It's now being considered by the House. In Wichita Falls, you cannot even be holding your phone while driving your car because of the city's hands-free ordinance.

But that ordinance would have to be replaced with the new state law that would allow people to, once again, talk and drive.

"I think hands free telephone calling is a fine idea," Resident, Tom McCoy said. "And I hope the state follows suit and bans all talking and texting on the telephone."

McCoy like's Wichita Falls hands-free ordinance and believes it has saved lives. In February, many people had something to say before councilors passed the ordinance.

"To throw a net over everyone that can't afford a hands-free device is discriminatory," one resident said.

"I've seen students at Midwestern State nearly get run over because of a 4,000-pound ball of steel coming at them, doing 40 miles per hour in a 20, and the driver can't take their eyes off a little cell phone screen," a Midwestern State student added.

But the city law could be short lived.

"The state needs to follow Wichita Falls on their ordinance," McCoy said. "You need to ban both. Two years from now we're gonna spend probably a million dollars making up another law about not talking on the telephone while we drive."

Although McCoy likes the city ordinance, Bubba Forbess would prefer the proposed state law. He believes it's more distracting to use a hands-free device and pull over to answer your phone.

Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, said the bill did not include all electronic device use because it takes away basic liberties. McCoy said if that's the case, maybe they should ban more things.

"People smoke and drive all the time and they get distracted," he said sarcastically. "I think they should ban smoking from driving."

Some Wichita Falls leaders are concerned about the possible new bill because they believe it would be harder for police to enforce.

Now that it's back on the floor and the Senate has passed it, House lawmakers will soon vote during this special session. If it passes, it will head back to the Governor's desk.

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