Thursday, February 19, 2009

DPS wants cell phone ban, expand "driver responsibility fee"

The Department of Public Safety at a Senate Finance Committee meeting this morning said they not only want to ban Texas drivers from using wireless communications in their vehicles - including both cell phones and hands-free devices - the agency hopes to subject cell phone using drivers to massive civil fines in addition to the cost of a ticket.

The idea of banning cell phones is misguided enough; after all, driving while talking on the cell phone is no more distracting than changing out CDs or fiddling with the radio, not to mention, putting on makeup, shaving, eating, disciplining kids in the back seat, or any number of other activities that routinely distract drivers. But DPS wants to add this new offense to the list of those on which the state imposes misnamed "driver responsibility fee." That's a particularly dumb idea given that those costs are so high that 70% of driver responsibility fees go unpaid.

The Legislature needs to scale back driver responsibility fees to reduce the astronomical rates of noncompliance, not exacerbate the problem by applying the fee to new, relatively trivial offenses.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Grits, you can't accurately compare phone conversations with fiddling with the radio, yelling at kids, what have you. Phone conversations usually last longer than it takes to mess with the radio dial or to tell your kids to settle down. If all phone conversations lasted less than 5 seconds, maybe they'd be less distracting, but that's not reality.

As for the driver responsibility program, it lasts for too long, it's too complicated for people to understand, and it continues to penalize you after you've paid your dues.

x4livin said...

More often than not, as I pass a public servant vehicle, he is on his cell phone. Unless those who "uphold" the law and those who write the law are going to be exempt, this is just one more thing they are going to have to excuse themselves from in the future.

Anonymous said...

x4livin had bingo.

and 6:40: I think you can compare it. any distraction IS a distraction. an accident only takes a second to happen

JTP said...

Who gets the money generated by the fees?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Grits but I have to agree with Anon 6:40. You talk and drive you are a danger. Review your research and I believe that you will find that it is a LOT more dangerous than changing a CD...whatever those are. But you and anon are both correct regarding the abuse of the driver responsibility program - just another way to put folks in jail who otherwise don't belong there.

Anonymous said...

I think we're going to see a lot of these attempts by different texas law enforcement groups to create more laws that give them more power in the months ahead - they know there's going to be changes due to Obama's administration, Eric Holder, and they're trying to aggregate power for themselves before too much attention is paid to Texas overcriminalization (and I believe quite a bit of attention is going to be paid to overcriminalization by the new attorney general - at least I pray that will happen).

doran williams said...

If I'm driving, and singing along with someone on the radio in my car, or if I'm reciting lines for a play I'm in, or if I'm talking out loud to myself and cursing someone who offended me earlier in the day, or if I'm saying things I should have said to that asshole at work who dissed me, or if I'm strenuously arguing with the person in the passenger seat or in the back seat, am I not creating the same degree of danger as someone talking on a hands' free telephone? Is a taxi driver in contact with his dispatcher creating the same danger? The Sears repair man talking to his dispatcher?

The logical conclusion, if all these things are creating so much danger, is to require a separate compartment for drivers to set in.

This DPS initiative is not about safety. It is about another effort by DPS in an ongoing, unending string of efforts, to expand the influence and power of law enforcement over people, and to collect money for DPS.

Anonymous said...

I heard talking on a cell phone is more dangerous than driving at .08 BAC

Anonymous said...

Its obviously just another attempt by the state to tax. as a career law enforcement person, i am against the use of law enforcement as a form of revenure generation. And i don't recall this being an issue back in the C.B. days...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"If you talk and drive you are a danger."

Also if you eat and drive. Or shave and drive. Or put on makeup. Or rummage through CDs looking for your favorite. Or discipline unruly kids in the back seat. All those things are distracting and dangerous to do while driving, and there's no evidence talking on the cell phone is any more distracting than any of them. (If you know of research comparing those risks, please provide a link; I don't think it exists.)

This proposal is about revenue generation and creating more opportunities for pretext stops, not public safety.

Don said...

Plus, they could use this for probable cause to go on a drug fishing expedition.

Don said...

Anon 8:36 They don't really throw you in jail for not paying the surcharges. You just lose your drivers license.

Anonymous said...

More BS from DPS! How is talking on a cell phone different from talking to others in the car? How dangerous is a DPS Trooper talking on his cell phone or 2-way radio? Please protect me from the DPS Troopers who are the cell phone or 2-way radio while flying down the road chaseing a speeder or going to an accident!

It is all about the money!!!

FTM

Anonymous said...

"...and it continues to penalize you after you've paid your dues."


And this stops the State from doing it how again. For those that haven;t noticed, the State is becoming famous everyday by creating laws that continue to punish people after they have paid their dures, have done their time, have completed their sentence.

We cannot act surprised that those in the power seat in Austin want this to happen. i means more money for their favorite projects, kick-backs, and more reasons to continue with the never ending cycle..

Shazam said...

Look,

Anyone here who thinks that the DPS giving tickets and DRL Fees to anyone talking on a cell phone is a good idea is really misguided. It will not stop at cell phones. It will go to GPS devices, Satellite radio, and talking to the person next to you in the car. It is foolish. We are making more and more people criminals. It is the nanny state gone absolutely insane. It is a state hungry for money trying to get more.

The Texas Driver Responsibility Law is not effective. They issue fines, which many do not pay. They suspend the license of those who do not pay and make criminals out of them if they drive. One state representative wants to make is a misdemeanor, class c, for not paying the TXDRL fee. Someone must tell these people to stop.

When we are willing to fork over our liberty to obtain safety, we are no longer free. We are slaves of the state and beggars at their table for permission to use our own property and live our own lives.

Paladin51 said...

What about the cops? Do they still get to use their cell phones to call mama? And, what about the computers they have in their cars that completely divert their attention with alerts, e-mails, looking up tags, etc? Is it just assumed the cops don't have the same problems others do when driving? This is BS.

Anonymous said...

Had you actually been listening, you would have heard the estimated dollar amount dps said they expected to generate from a no cell law.

More interestingly, Ogden and Whitmire both discussed with Polunsky and co. how much money from asset forfeitures they had (I think 17 mil was the number) and whether they were prepared to use that money to augment their budget.

Anonymous said...

Look at all the so-called "civil libertarians" coming out in favor of the cell phone ban. My nausea level could only increase more if the "we have to do it to protect the children" mantra raises its ugly head. More reasons for the police to pull you over is NOT the answer.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that running someone off the road, hitting someone head on or any other collision can be considered trivial. These drivers sometimes reach the same level of inattention of someone who is intoxicated. I say BAN 'EM!

W W Woodward said...

Let's ban all driver distractions including driver distractions in LEO vehicles as well. I'm surprised that someone hasn't attempted the argument that LEOs are academy trained and have acquired skills far and above those of mere mortals to drive and talk at the same time.

It's not about "saving lives" or "for the children". It's all about control and money.

We really don't need more laws. We need to encourage our legislators to repeal many of the laws already on the books. Fewer silly-ass laws would result in fewer criminals. Texas needs more Peace Officers and fewer Law Enforcement Officers.

Anonymous said...

Don said...
Anon 8:36 They don't really throw you in jail for not paying the surcharges. You just lose your drivers license.


Don,
You may not be thrown in jail the first time but.. when you lose your license, you lose your insurance, can't get the vehicle registered and when you are stopped again you go to jail and you lose your car... It's a cycle and it only goes downhill...

I personally had a ticket I couldn't pay, but still had insurance. I just thought I'd pay it when I came into some extra cash (income tax, lotto, etc...)One day the insurance company called to advise they had to cancel my insurance because I don't have a valid license...Whoa??
Now even if I pay the tickets I have to still pay the DR Fee and get an SR22...at this rate I will be driving w/out a license until??
Until I go to jail...

Don said...

I'm down with Shazam and WW Woodward. You both nailed it. To Anon 8:36. Yes, I agree with what you say, I just wanted to be sure nobody thought not paying the thing would automatically land you in jail. I agree with everybody that the misnamed Texas Driver Responsiblity Act is sheer lunacy, which I told Representative Carl Isett when it was passed. Everybody knew what would happen with the silly thing except the lege.

Anonymous said...

I believe the state of Virginia is already in the process of repealing their Driver Responsibility Surcharge.

Texas should do the same.

Anonymous said...

By the way, last March the legislature instructed the DPS to develop an Amnesty, Incentive and Indigent program for the DRS.

The DPS website indicated it would be developed and in place by December.

I called about it the other day and was told they are still working out the details and to just check the website periodically.

electrotech said...

I am personally in favor of banning cell phones and lip flapping while driving altogether. They should impose the same penalties, both criminal and civil, as they do for drunk drivers. They are equally a threat to anyone's safety and no one has the right to endanger another person's life....period!

Anonymous said...

Electrotech: Can I ask you a few questions for more information?

What is the research and data upon which you base your conclusions? How does the danger from talking on a cell phone differ from other forms of driver activity, such as talking to the guy next to you, memorizing lines, stressing about family and work problems---in short, all those other distracting mental and physical things we all do at some point when we drive? And how do you propose that we structure a law which allows some people to talk on cell phones and radios as a matter of necessity?

I think you over state the case when you say that "no one has the right to endanger another person's life....period!" Anytime you or I get behind the steering wheel of a vehicle and gets on a public road, we endanger the lives of others.

Debby said...

Oh. My. Gosh. I won't take sides on the driving and talking debate, both sides have merit. But the biggest part of this post is the fact that the leg is even considering doing anything other than repealing the Driver Responsibility Act. We have people who have lost their jobs, fell behind on their fee, had their DL revoked and now can't get another job because they'd have to drive without a license. Adding any other fines to this Act will only end badly. What do we have to do to make someone listen about this?

Anonymous said...

Good question Debby. There is a petition on the internet which I have signed. There is someone named Tamara Shippy that started the petition, but I don't know what else she is doing to address the legislature.

I read about the move to repeal this in Virginia some months ago and it seems like much of their momentum on the repeal was influenced by the fact that their law did not apply to out-of-state drivers.

Wes Sherwood said...

My name is Wes Sherwood and I am the safety communications manger for Ford. This is a very important discussion and something we’ve researched a lot. A new Ford study shows voice-controlled interfaces such as Ford SYNC significantly reduce distraction levels compared to visually and manually operated handheld cell phones and music players. For example, study participants spent an average of 25 seconds with their eyes-off-the-road to select a song with a handheld MP3 player compared with 2 seconds for those choosing a song using SYNC.

This builds on government research showing manual handheld cell phone operations such as dialing are nearly three times riskier than “normal” driving, which accounts for more traditional distractions (adjusting audio/climate systems, reaching for items, etc…) But, the study concludes talking on a cell phone (hands-free or handheld) while driving is statistically equivalent to normal driving.

Details of the government driver distraction research are at http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/nrd-12/100Car_ESV05summary.pdf

More information on Ford’s research is at http://media.ford.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=29812

W W Woodward said...

All you people who just can't seem to bear the thought of being endangered on the public thoroughfares of the state of Texas should just stay home, buy your staples from e-bay, and order home delivery. With any luck at all a fully loaded airliner with a compartment full of x-rayed, floroscoped, strip searched totally safe dead passengers won't crash onto your home.

The world is a dangerous place and making the intelligent use of cell phones, drugs, firearms, automobiles, and eye make-up illegal will not make it any safer.

More Texans die from stupidity than from any outside sources. See if you can convince your rep in Austin to pass an anti-stupid law. With apologies to Bill Ingval (sp?) "Here's your sign!"

Cheap Nokia said...

This type of law already exists in Sydney Australia, but in this country we are regulated up to our eyeballs so it is not shocking to anyone and nobody disputes it. FOr example when yougo to a rock concert and buy a drink, they open the can or bottle up for you and tips the contents into a plastic glass... you know so you don't glass anyone.

Anonymous said...

Talking to the person in the passenger seat takes your concentration off driving just as much as talking to someone on a cell phone. It may even distract you more since you may choose to occasionally glance over at their face while carrying on a conversation. Will they next try to ban the driver from joining in any conversations?

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