Police officer in Texas caught on camera using phone while driving

Police chief claimed the incident was only "minor in nature"

POLICE officers are supposed to uphold the law, though newly-released footage shows even members of the constabulary can sometimes fail to lead by example.

Video shot by the passenger of a passing car shows an officer of the Killeen Police Department in Texas, USA, driving along a highway while allegedly texting on a mobile phone.

Texan traffic laws forbid drivers from writing, reading and sending text messages while behind the wheel — something the police office should know very well.

Amazingly, there wasn’t any legislation in Texas that explicitly prohibited motorists from making phone calls when driving, though that changed on September 1; motorists are now banned from making phone calls on handheld devices across the Lone Star State.

The officer doesn’t just appear to be violating laws related to the use of a mobile phone. Although hard to make out from the footage, it also appears the officer wasn’t wearing a seatbelt in the patrol car, either — again, a violation of traffic laws in Texas.

According to the Killeen Police chief Charles Kimble, his department is now investigating the incident over the allegations of misconduct. Kimble claimed the instances of phone use and not wearing a seatbelt while driving were only “minor in nature” violations, but said he understood “the expectations that our community expects were not met in this incident”, and that his department is taking the case seriously.

Crash test figures from the Texas Department for Transportation (TxDOT) show that making calls while driving is potentially very dangerous. According to statistics for 2018, there were 4,325 crashes on Texan roads as a result of the driver using a mobile phone. Of those crashes, 61 were fatal.

Likewise, not wearing a seatbelt on car journeys can be life-threatening in the event of an accident. While the TxDOT statistics don’t reveal how many car crashes involved people not wearing a seatbelt, they showed that more than two-fifths (43.06%) of people killed in road accidents weren’t buckled up when the fatal incident occurred.

Legislators in Texas aren’t the only policy makers tightening up traffic laws in order to reduce casualties on the roads. In May 2019, the UK’s Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety said drivers who are caught not wearing their seatbelt should be automatically given three points on their driving licence, and the Transport Select Committee said earlier this month the government should consider banning hands-free mobile phones on the basis they “create the same risk of a collision as using a hand-held device“.

Credit: Marcus Evans via Storyful

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Drivers should be banned from using hands-free mobile phones, MPs argue

MPs push penalty points for not wearing a seatbelt