Submitted By Melinda Cox
The 85th Texas Legislative Session is in full swing and the Johnson High School PTSA Smart Driving Club was back in Austin again this February to help advocate for the passage of a statewide law banning texting and driving. Club members were asked by the office of Representative Craddick to be a part of Advocate Day at the State Capitol on February 2. Representative Craddick and others are introducing the bill to ban texting while driving.
The PTSA Smart Driving club engages their Jaguar campus and community to help educate people about the dangers of distracted driving. Club members work with the Texas Department of Transportation, the San Antonio Police Department, San Antonio City Council and others to get out the message of safe driving. Members of the club believe drivers should have their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel at all times. This belief was on the agenda for the visit to the State Capitol to advocate for the passage of House Bill 62 and Senate Bill 31 which would make it illegal statewide to text while behind the wheel.
“Young drivers deserve the right to be safe behind the wheel,” said Niklas Siebert, Smart Driving Club President. “We need to know we can head to school, head to work or head home and trust that drivers aren’t driving distracted. We need to know our city and state representatives care enough about our future and the future of others to push for measures to keep us safe.”
Texas is one of the only four states left which do not have a statewide law to ban texting and driving. Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, hopes to change that. House Bill 62 and Senate Bill 31 would make using a phone while driving a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a fine ranging from $25 to $99 with penalties up to $200 for repeat offenders. Lawmakers have shot down similar attempts by Zaffirini for four sessions in a row. Zaffirini has worked with Rep. Tom Craddick, the Republican former House speaker from Midland, who filed anti-texting legislation in the last three legislative sessions, to work to get this legislation passed. Together, this will be the fifth time this legislation has been filed. Once again, Zaffirini and Craddick are naming their legislation after Alex Brown, a West Texas high school student who was killed in a crash while texting and driving in 2009.
“The Johnson PTSA Smart Driving Club’s mission is to remind drivers to drive safely and to never drive distracted,” stated Jack Morgan, Vice President. “We are here to ask our representatives for help with this mission.”
The day began in the office of House Speaker Joe Strauss. Speaker Strauss accompanied club students to the House floor where each and every club member was thanked for their work and commitment. Dressed in their Sunday best, students also wore a student designed button on their lapels to carry their message with them to the floor, “Ten and Two…How About You?”
Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, co-author of the texting bill, introduced the club while presenting House Bill 62 to the floor. He applauded club members and encouraged them to continue with their important work.
Senior and junior Jaguar students then spent the day asking for help with their mission, walking the halls of the Capitol, seeking meetings with Senior and Freshman
Representatives and Senators. Students stopped by offices and spent time with elected
officials, encouraging them to sign on to the bill and become co-authors. Representatives Uresti, Gervin-Hawkins and Minjarez met with club students and lent their support to the clubs’ mission and to House Bill 62. Representative Larson also spoke with students, sharing a personal story about family loss due to texting and driving.
Members of the Smart Driving Club have heard many stories from families affected by distracted drivers. They understand the importance of never driving distracted and have worked with their campus and community for over four years to push this message out to their campus and city. Members of this club ask for your support to encourage your state representatives to help keep the roads safe for drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians.