The “90 day grace period” for texting and driving in San Benito will be up less than 3 weeks.
After May 8, 2017, if a driver is caught with a cell phone in their hand while driving, in the city or on the highway expect a fine up to $500.
“If we can see the screen and your little things going whatever it is you know more than likely you’re going to get stopped.” said San Benito Chief of Police Michael Galvan.
San Benito City Council passed a texting while driving ban, Ordinance No. 2539, February 7, 2017. As of April, Texas lawmakers continue to discuss the details on how to prove a driver was in fact texting or using their phone for other purposes such as GPS navigation. Chief Galvan said the ban has a dual purpose. “It builds probable cause and you’d be surprised something as small as failing to signal before making a turn or changing lanes could lead to a narcotics carrier. It can lead to all kinds of things, this is just one more law in the books for us to enforce that could lead to other crimes.”
The dual purpose and state’s discussion has some residents feel the ban is an invasion of privacy and a way to make money. Chief Galvan understands but public safety is top priority, “Bottom line if they’re texting and they crash and the officers have to go out there and to do traffic control for the accident and all that time, there’s spent doing that it’s just less time they’re patrolling their neighborhoods.”
Chief Galvan said the ban is not about making money off the community through unarguable fines, it’s about saving lives and keeping officers on patrol, “criminal take advantage of that no visibility they’ll see that there’s no police officers around so they know that the coast is clear so they’re going to said breaking into stuff stealing stuff and whatever they want.”
There is no current state law banning texting and driving leaving cities to pass ordinances on their own accord.
However, last week, House Bill 62 has cleared the Texas House of Representatives and a counterpart bill, Senate Bill 31 is headed to the Texas Senate for a vote.