San Antonio drivers 'busted' for texting

Anti­-texting and driving group targets distracted drivers, teaches lessons

SAN ANTONIO - A group of anti-texting and driving advocates recently spent time in San Antonio looking for drivers breaking the law.

The group was started last year by Ryan Wilson. He was on his way home from work in Arkansas when he witnessed the aftermath of a fatal accident caused by a driver who was using a cell phone. That's when he decided to do something about it.

"I realized that no one is really doing anything about it," Wilson said.

Wilson attached a video camera to his windshield and recorded numerous drivers texting behind the wheel. He set up a web site and began posting pictures of the drivers he caught.

A year later with some funding from private investors Wilson is now going to different cities and capturing drivers breaking the law and turning their bad behavior into teachable moments by confronting the drivers with a camera crew.

"We don't look at it as being confrontational. We like to call it the approach," said Angela Hines, Chief Communications Specialist for Textface. "We just ask questions, provide information and people can do with it what they want."

Hines is the team member that approaches the drivers caught on tape texting. The team only follows drivers into public spaces and asks them about their driving habits. Often times the drivers flat out lie about their habits. Hines said younger, female drivers are most likely to come clean.

That was the case when the team followed Jennifer Moreno into a parking lot after recording her texting and driving. Moreno admitted she did it and knew it was against the law.

"I don't do it as much as I used to, but I am going to be honest and say I do it occasionally," Moreno told Hines. "It's not a good habit to have at all. It's kind of weird. It's kind of like you're addicted to doing it and having to break that habit is kind of hard."

While some critics have been vocal about the Textface approach, Hines feels they are just pointing out a problem and starting a dialogue about it.

"If you're doing something wrong and no one ever confronts you on it, you're going to continue to do it," Hines said. "Once you're confronted, you're going to think twice before you do it again and that's what's so unique about what we do."

In San Antonio, texting and driving has been against the law since 2010. San Antonio Police said they issued 329 citations to distracted drivers in 2011. So far in 2012 they've caught 270 drivers texting behind the wheel.

Statewide there were 3,147 accidents attributed to cell phone use in 2011, not surprising considering studies have shown texting while driving is just as dangerous as drinking and driving.

"It's been proven it's worse than drinking and driving," Wilson said. "There's been more fatalities from texting and driving now than there has been DWI's. It's surpassed it by thousands."

Right now roughly 20 cities in Texas have passed ordinances prohibiting texting while driving. A statewide ban was defeated in Austin but drivers under 18 are prohibited from texting and driving and so are bus operators when a minor is on board. It's also illegal to text and drive through school zones across the state.

Hines believes the laws should be more strict and he hopes her efforts to catch drivers breaking the law will bring more attention to the problem.

"We're letting them know that there are people out there watching and reminding them that lives are in their hands when they're on their phones," Hines said.

Wilson said in the end he just wants drivers to think twice before picking up their phones while driving.

"If you have to send a text just pull over," Wilson said. "Be safe because you don't want to be a statistic and you don't want to be the person that caused the accident."

For a list of recent stories Tim Gerber has done, click here.


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