CAPITOL RINGSIDE: House takes bold first step to ban texting while driving

By CHARLEY WILKISON

Co-owner of The Independent

Former Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, has made a political career as a conservative’s conservative since his election to the House in 1972.

I was in the ninth grade that year.

Last legislative session, Craddick passed a ban on cell phone texting and driving. A few of his conservative colleagues allowed as to how Tom had drifted away from the civil libertarian gospel and wasn’t conservative enough anymore.

Tom never swerved or hesitated. He just said he wanted to save lives and stop Texans from driving around and swerving into other lanes while texting.

Gov. Rick Perry vetoed his bill that year and said it attempted to regulate the behavior of adults.

Rep. Craddick is back and his new bill, HB 63, received overwhelming support in the House Wednesday.

The anti-government folks are bashing him for becoming a big government liberal. However, some of these same arguments are made every time any government action is taken to solve a real, live problem in our state.

Inside every Texan is a civil libertarian still mad at Santa Anna. And the civil libertarian in all of us detests the growth of government and the limit to any freedom. But  at each time in society where it’s forced on us we must ask:

1. Is it necessary and reasonable?

2. Does it serve the greater good?

Of course there are reasons why government decides to step into our daily lives and impede us in some small way.

There are reasons why we have stop signs and lights at intersections. For centuries, humans left the simple act of yielding the right of way to the individuals involved. The law was silent. Guess what? Too many people were killed. Too many people lost property so governments were forced to act in a reasoned manner for the greater good.

There’s a reason we force drivers to have financial responsibility, to buckle their children into seat belts and safety restraints. That’s because we could not depend on the individual to always make a decision based on what was best for themselves and others.

That’s why government is forced to act legitimately to attempt to save the lives of innocent people. We can’t always just act on issues that only fit nicely into our political belief system. We sometimes have to temporarily abridge the right of the individual in order to save the lives of many, acting in the greater good.

In every generation, liberal pacifists vote to go to war, conservatives vote to fund projects for public education — every day we are forced into introspection, and then action — when it’s necessary, reasonable and protects the greater good of our community.

HB 63 meets these tests. People are dying because we cannot put down our cell phones. And our addiction to instant communication has led us to a place where we’ve passed our addiction to a new, younger generation who are less experienced in handling everyday road distractions and even more likely to succumb to the urge to read and reply while driving.

Texas needs to act to not only save the lives of those texting and driving but also save the lives of the other innocent motorists who, through no fault of their own, find themselves sharing the same fate as those who recklessly risk their lives by texting.

HB 63 simply follows the Texas model of government by only intervening in our lives when it’s necessary, reasonable and serves the greater good.

And, yes, Tom Craddick is still a conservative.

Charley Wilkison is Public Affairs Director for the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas and co-owner of The Independent.