According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), 1 in 5 crashes involve driver distraction. Drivers are especially likely to crash if they are using their cellphones while operating a motor vehicle. In 2017, Texas made texting and driving illegal. The Legislature took it a step further and passed a statewide ban on using a wireless communications device for electronic messaging while operating a motor vehicle. This means drivers may not text or send emails, even if they do so via a hands-free technology like voice-to-text.
Texas also has special rules for certain drivers and locations:
- Drivers with learner’s permits are prohibited from using handheld cell phones in the first 6 months of driving
- Drivers under the age of 18 may not use wireless communications devices
- School bus drivers are prohibited from using cell phones while driving if children are present
- All drivers are prohibited from texting and using handheld devices while driving in school zones
Further, TxDOT advises Texas drivers that local areas have their own ordinances and restrictions on distracted driving. If you are driving in Texas, it is your responsibility to be aware of and abide by these local laws.
Penalties for Distracted Driving
At the state level, the latest distracted driving law went into effect on September 1, 2017. Anyone who violates the amendments laid out in House Bill 62 will face a misdemeanor charge and a fine between $25 and $99. Repeat offenders could face civil penalties as high as $200. If a driver causes a serious injury or death while texting and driving, they could face up to $4,000 in fines and up to 1 year in jail, not to mention civil lawsuits.
Flaws in the Law
The state of Texas only outlaws communicating while driving, instead of forbidding handheld cellphone use or all forms of distracted driving. Under current law, it is not illegal for drivers to change the radio station or use a GPS navigation app – 2 behaviors that increase the risk of a car accident.
Critics of the law suggest a ban on all use of mobile devices with exceptions for hands-free technology and emergencies. In Georgia, this legislation decreased collisions by 27% during its first month in action. Last February (2019), Texas lawmakers proposed Senate Bill 43 to keep pace. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass, and the 2017 law remains unchanged as we head into 2020.
What If I Am Harmed By a Distracted Driver?
While all forms of distracted driving are not illegal in Texas, they are considered negligent. If someone harms you while texting and driving, eating and driving, or doing any activity that takes their eyes, hands, or attention off driving; you may be entitled to compensation.
Discuss your injuries and losses with Mathias Raphael PLLC Accident & Injury Lawyers today to find out if you have a case. Our attorneys fight until victory always, offer free consultations, and are available 24/7 at (214) 739-0100 and online.