Mississippi’s texting-while-driving ban died in an unfathomable last-minute reversal by the House after its overwhelming passage of the legislation the day before.
The 26-year Republican legislator Bill Denny of Jackson moved to reconsider the bill, which led to an unrecorded voice vote that ensured its death on the calendar as the Legislature adjourned Wednesday night.
Denny, angering and bewildering some of his colleagues who had worked all session to pass the texting ban as a life-saving safety measure, said he didn’t know the ban was for everybody. The bill’s language had been changed, but Denny and others should have been aware of the contents.
Transportation Committee member Rep. Tom Miles, it was reported, was angered by Denny’s move, and said many people had worked hard to pass a texting ban to improve safety.
Denny’s motion to reconsider, upheld on the voice vote, means the proven deadly drivers’ indulgence created by the age of wireless communication will continue without penalty.
The Daily Journal long has advocated a texting while driving ban in Mississippi. Ours is one of only seven states without texting-driving bans for all drivers in the face of convincing statistics about its dangers and its link to fatalities.
Ubiquitous text messaging by drivers of all ages makes roads, streets and highways more dangerous everywhere, creating a scourge called “distracted driving” that’s often compared to drunk driving in the degree of hazards it creates. Mississippi, which will continue with no punitive disincentive to texting and driving, can expect to reap the grim harvest of driver irresponsibility supported by outright legislative failure to act.
Gov. Phil Bryant was ready to sign a texting ban on arrival in his office, and legislative majorities supported it.
This issue shouldn’t and won’t die. Public advocates will be back next year, and we hope those legislators who have worked hard on this legislation will continue to push it.
Texting while driving is clearly a safety concern beyond just the youngest Mississippi drivers, for whom it is already illegal. A huge House majority believed one day that the law should ban it. The complete reversal that occurred the next day is as perplexing as it is unfortunate.