- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

HOUSTON (AP) - Houston has the state’s largest school district but city officials and educators say they don’t have the funding needed to install signs about a ban on texting and talking with cellphones in school zones.

The Texas law banning such cellphone use in school zones has never been enforced in Houston, with about 215,000 public school students, the Houston Chronicle (https://bit.ly/1JMGyi5 ) reported Tuesday. The law does allow the use of speaker phones or hands-free devices.

The city puts the cost at roughly $2.3 million for about 7,800 signs, but state Transportation Department estimates show the price tag should be much lower.

Former state Rep. Dan Branch, who sponsored the 2009 bill, said that he didn’t anticipate the sign requirement would make the law too expensive to enforce.

“Active school zones require a driver’s undivided attention,” Branch said. “It’s hard to put a price on the life of a child.”

The state agency tracked more than 600 vehicle crashes in school zones last year. It’s unclear whether the drivers were using cellphones, but the department ranked driver attention among the most common reasons for the wrecks.

The city said the signs would cost about $300 each, including for anti-graffiti coating and mounts. The Texas Department of Transportation said the tab is at $100 each, assuming the cellphone notice can be added to an existing school zone sign.

Robert Mock, chief of the Houston Independent School District’s police force, said the state law isn’t easy to enforce, because officers have to catch drivers in the act, but he still wants the signs up.

“It would be helpful - not so much because that allows you to write citations . really just to create awareness,” Mock said.


Information from: Houston Chronicle, https://www.houstonchronicle.com

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