San Benito bans texting while driving

SAN BENITO — The city’s laying down the law.

If you’re driving, don’t text.

Last night, city commissioners approved an ordinance banning texting while driving.

“If you’re driving through San Benito, you’ve got to be careful,” Police Chief Michael Galvan said after the meeting.

For 90 days, the city will offer a grace period to help residents get familiar with the law.

Upon conviction, offenders will face fines of up to $500.

“We’re not here to punish people,” Galvan said. “We’re trying to prevent accidents and fatalities.”

Commissioners Joe D. Gonzalez and Rene Villafranco proposed the ordinance.

“We’re doing it for everybody’s safety,” Galvan said.

During the next 90 days, he said, the city will launch a campaign to help make people aware of the new law and the dangers of texting while driving.

“We’re going to get out as much information as we can through the media,” Galvan told commissioners.

Galvan said the city will post signs to alert residents to the new law.

“We have to create awareness,” he said.

In Texas, texting is already banned in school zones — and so is using cell phones.

In the Rio Grande Valley, texting while driving has turned fatal in cities including Harlingen, Laguna Vista and McAllen, Galvan said.

Last November, he said, a texting driver slammed into the back of his car in a Houston traffic jam.

Galvan said the fender-bender cost him $6,000 in repairs.

But he also was treated for minor injuries to his wrist, shoulder and lower back.

Every year in Texas, “distracted drivers” are behind more than 100,000 crashes, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

“Distracted drivers are dangerous,” Galvan said. “You need to keep both hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road and be able to look at your mirrors.”