SPECIAL REPORT: Law enforcement trying different methods to curb texting and driving

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Police patrol the streets of Nacogdoches, looking for violators of an ordinance that's only weeks old.

"The city council actually requested that I do the initial research on it," said Jim Sevey, the Nacogdoches Police chief.

Since the state hasn't outlawed texting and driving, the city took matters into their own hands.

"Enforcement is going to be somewhat difficult, simply because you have to be able to see what an individual is doing inside their vehicle," Sevey said. "However, there are many other reasons that we stop people that are not specifically for texting or emailing or other electronic messaging while they're driving, but it's from the effects of doing that, things like going too fast, going too slow."

On the other side of the Angelina River, the City of Lufkin says although the council could choose to enact a ban, they worry about how they would enforce such an ordinance.

"I commend the cities that have done it locally, but I think they have an enforcement problem from the aspect of how do you let the public know that you have that ordinance if you're traveling through a community that has adopted an ordinance of that nature?" said Paul Parker, the Lufkin city manager. "How does the traveling public know?"

He says a simple sign may not be enough.

For now, DPS Trooper Greg Sanches educates children on the dangers of texting and driving…despite the fact there's no law against it. He shows the students graphic images of fatal crashes caused by distracted driving.

"It's always those that we do touch though and a lot of times you may have that one or two that may not, but the majority a lot of times will listen and learn from what you're talking about or showing to them and so you know I come because I care and I care about what happens to them," Sanches said.

The presentation has hit home for at least one of the students.

"It's very touching to see stuff like that because it lets you know you could be in the same position one day," said Tristan Reynolds, an Onalaska High School student. "It just kind of gets to your heart a little bit."

He doesn't even have a license yet. In fact, he plans to start driver's ed soon, keeping what he's seen today in mind.

"If I get a text message, I'll just wait until I reach where I'm going to answer it because if it's that big of a deal, they'll call me back," Reynolds said.

One of Reynolds' classmates admits she's been guilty of texting behind the wheel in the past, a habit she has since broken.

"Sometimes when I used to text and drive, I would like swerve and almost hit something and I would freak out and you would just not do it for awhile," Anna Kareva said. "But then you'd get back into the habit."

Now she pulls over or gives the phone to a friend.

New findings from the Texas Transportation Institute shows texting and driving is more dangerous than previously thought. Researchers say it can more than double a driver's reaction time.

"I tell the kids, it's like bouncing a basketball," Sanches said. "How could a basketball player be bouncing a basketball down the court and be talking on the phone at the same time and do a good job at it? And they all kind of laugh because they realize they couldn't do it. It's no different from driving a car."

Sanches says it's important to teach students not only to put the phone down, but to be on the lookout for the signs of a distracted driver.

"It never really hits home until you're in that situation," Kareva said. "Because you know that you can kill someone, but you don't believe it until it happens."

If it does happen, Sanches says those at fault could face felony charges and jail time. Students say they're sure, regardless of the number of times the message is preached, there will still be those that risk lives, including their own to send a text on the road.

"There would have to be some sort of community impact," Kareva said. "I would never want anyone to get in a crash, but I think if something happened, people would see it more as reality."

Officers in Nacogdoches are hoping a ticket will be enough to curb the fatal habit.

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