As you may know, texting while driving is illegal in Texas as of September 1, 2017. This law has been put in place to help reduce car accidents and make Texas’ roads safer in general. So what does that mean for you, the everyday motorist? Here’s what you need to know.
What does this law specifically prohibit?
This new law only applies to “reading, writing, or sending electronic messages” through a “wireless communication device.” You can still legally use your phone for music, GPS navigation, phone calls, etc., but you may get pulled over by an officer if they think you may be texting.*
What is the punishment for breaking this law?
A first offense is punishable by a fine of $25-99 and repeat offenders face $100-200 fines. You can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor if an accident caused by texting while driving results in serious bodily injury or death of another person. This is punishable by a fine (not to exceed $4,000) and jail confinement not to exceed one year (for that specific charge only).
Does this law go far enough?
Many would say no since it specifically only prohibits “electronic messages.” It is hoped that a more comprehensive law will be passed to deter, not only the usage of cell phones, but also any activity that distract drivers in general. In the meantime, 45 Texas cities have and enforce strict hands-free ordinances.
What can you do?
Simply put, don’t text while you drive. Don’t do anything that will distract you from the road. Admittedly, this is easier said than done. Here are some practical tips you can follow to help you stay off your phone when you’re driving:
- Place your phone out of hands reach (e.g. the far backseat, trunk).
- Silence your notifications on your phone or turn your phone off completely.
- Pull off the road to a safe spot before using your phone or sending a text.
- Install an app that prevents you from texting while driving. These apps are getting better all the time. Many cell phones have built-in features that automatically stop notifications while you drive.
*Rasansky Law Firm – Jeff Rasansky August 31, 2017 Texting & Driving / Hands-Free Laws in Texas