KFOX14Investigates: Texas 1 of 4 states where texting and driving is still legal

More than 5,000 crashes in Texas were the result of texting while driving and yet, Texas is one of only four states where it is still legal to text and drive.

Lawmakers are now set to debate outlawing it.

The city of El Paso has a ban on cellphone use while you're driving. But it’s perfectly legal in the county.

The county can't pass a similar ban because that's a power left up to the state.

Now, for the fifth time, Texas lawmakers will try to pass a law to ban texting and driving.

And now we are taking a closer look at the casualties on our roads because of cellphones.

We've all seen it. It’s the driver next to you at a stoplight, focused on the screen.

“All the time, all the time,” Richard Carucci said he notices people texting and driving constantly. He said from his review mirror, he could see a driver texting, before the car crashed into the back of Carucci’s vehicle.

“I’ve been in an accident because someone was texting,” said Carucci.

He isn’t alone.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, cellphone use lead to more than 5,000 crashes in 2015 which was part of more than 106,000 distracted driving crashes state wide.

Those crashes killed 476 people across the state in 2015.

Yet, some lawmakers in Austin are not compelled to outlaw it.

“There are some people who just don’t want to hear or see the facts,” said State Rep. Joe Pickett (D-El Paso).

A new bill has been introduced, by Rep Tom Craddick (R-Midland) to ban texting while driving. It’s the fourth time he has introduced such legislation.

It’s the fifth time Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo has introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

Pickett, sits on the house transportation committee and said he supports Craddick’s bill.

“The deaths associated with cellphone use either talking or texting is really unacceptable,” said Pickett.

Pickett expects the debate on the house floor this session to be emotional.

Families who lost loved ones are likely to testify.

Victim testimonials are part of TX-DOT’s campaign, “Talk. Text. Crash.”

In 2016, the state combined with federal funds spent $1.2 million on the campaign.

It’s aimed at drivers to put their phones down and focus on the road.

Carlos Banuelos said he see’s people distracted by so many things on their phones.

“Snapchat, I see people do that so often and then I see their Snapchat. It’s like, can’t you wait till you get home at least?” said Banuelos.

Banuelos lives in the county, where its legal to use your phone while you drive and he works in the city. He said he can see a noticeable difference in drives cellphone use.

Banuelos said he doesn’t think people are thinking of the potential consequences.

“There are people that just want to get home, those people that want to get home have no clue something is going to happen to them,” said Banuelos.

KFOX14 Investigates discovered, in El Paso County there were almost 3,500 distracted driving crashes in 2015. Six people died and more than 160 were injured.

Despite the accidents and deaths, Pickett said don't bet on the bill becoming law.

“The odds are 3-1 against it passing,” he said.

Pickett said that's because there's a faction of lawmakers supportive of the governor and lieutenant governor, who are fundamentally opposed to the ban.

“They believe it is too intrusive of the government to be telling tell them what to do at any level. Even though we all know it is dangerous, it's bad,” said Pickett.

But after his accident, Carucci has a message for lawmakers. “Pass it,” he said.

Pickett said he'd like to encourage El Pasoans to contact their state representatives and let them know how they feel on this issue.

He said he does get some letters from people who are opposed to the ban on texting and driving, but he said majority of messages are supportive.

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