Texting while driving recently became illegal in the state of Texas, and it appears as though one sheriff’s deputy is having a hard time breaking the habit—or he thinks he is above the law, and won’t get caught.
A Fayette County deputy who has not been named is now being “disciplined for his actions,” according to a report from CBS Austin, after he was caught breaking the law by a handcuffed man in the backseat of his patrol car.
The suspect, John Glover, was arrested for misdemeanor theft after pawning a stolen item. He was able to record the video with his phone because he was handcuffed with his hands in front of him. The Fayette County Sheriff's Office is now claiming that the deputy was “being nice” after Glover complained that the handcuffs made his wrist hurt.
The ban on texting while driving in Texas went into effect on Sept. 1. Police officers told Dallas News that they intend to “target people who are on their cellphones reading, writing or sending a text message while driving,” and essentially anyone whose driving is affected by the fact that they have their eyes on a mobile device, instead of the road.
Police insist that the reason for the law is to eliminate accidents caused by “distracted driving,” but if that is the case, shouldn’t they be setting the example? An investigation by NBC 5 News found that electronic distractions lead to frequent police crashes in Texas.
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These electronic devices included things such as “two-way radios, smartphones, dashboard-mounted computers and on-board cameras,” which serves as a reminder that even if police officers stop texting and driving because it is illegal, they still have numerous distractions that can take their attention off of the road.
The investigation found that least 70 police crashes in a 24-month period from 2011-2012, were attributed to some kind of distraction, and the ones that were listed were “just the crashes that involved enough property damage or injury that they had to be reported to the state.”
Many of those crashes were not caused because the officers were texting and driving, but because they were using their dashboard-mounted computers and driving. In one case, a police officer in Austin was found using his computer when he ran a stop sign and hit a man on a motorcycle—severely injuring the man and sentencing him to a life of constant pain. A sheriff’s deputy in Tarrant County was also found to have been using his computer when he ran a red light and injured a woman in a sport utility vehicle.
Former Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck even told NBC 5 that he was not worried about reports of video showing an Arlington police officer speeding down a busy street, while diverting his attention from the road, to his computer. “I’m sorry it’s happened in other cities. It hasn’t happened in Arlington,” Cluck said, claiming the city’s officers are “above the fray.”
While the need for laws that ban texting while driving is an entirely different debate, the fact is that if the public is forced to follow a certain standard of conduct, police officers should be expected to do the same.
In fact, the idea that police officers can somehow be “above the law” when it comes to the public’s concerns about distracted driving is absurd. Not only do police not have supernatural powers that allow them to multi-task in a way that the average citizen cannot, but they also typically have even more electronic distractions in their vehicles, which puts them at a greater risk for getting into an accident.