The integration of cell phones into almost every part of our lives has significantly impacted safety on the road. From social media to work-related communications, the desire and need to use our devices are almost constant. Unfortunately, some feel the need to keep devices at their fingertips even while driving, resulting in a drastic increase in distracted driving incidents in recent years.
In 2019, there were 3,142 distracted driving deaths in the United States alone. That number continues to increase given the hold that screen-based technology continues to have over consumers.
Averting your eyes from the road for a few seconds to look at a device can have devastating impacts for you and drivers around you, including injury and death. Anyone getting behind the wheel should understand the scope of Texas texting and driving laws and the life-changing consequences of texting while driving.
Texas Texting and Driving Laws
Texas texting and driving laws are confusing and seemingly offer several loopholes that allow distracted driving to continue.
Texas has yet to outlaw the use of handheld devices behind the wheel entirely. However, several laws govern cell phone usage while driving, and some cities have banned cell phone use for drivers outright.
For example, San Antonio’s “Hands-Free Ordinance” prohibits using handheld devices for any purpose when behind the wheel. Anyone caught violating this law can be fined and ticketed on site.
Here is a breakdown of the current state of texting and driving laws in Texas:
- Texting while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle is prohibited
- Using any handheld device while driving through a school zone is prohibited
- Drivers with a learner’s permit are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving during their first six months as a new driver
- Drivers below the age of 18 are prohibited from using any handheld devices while operating a vehicle
- School bus drivers are banned from using their cell phones while there are children on the bus they are operating.
While these laws are a good start to limiting cell phone use while driving, the absence of any complete ban on cell phone use while driving allows distracted driving incidents to persist. Technically, these laws do not mean that all forms of texting and driving are illegal in Texas.
For example, Texas law does not expressly prohibit texting while stopped at a red light or stop sign. Texting while stopped at a traffic signal poses a serious risk to pedestrians and cyclists at intersections where a driver may be too distracted to notice them before the light turns green and they hit the gas pedal.
Similarly, the lack of a complete ban on cell phone use while behind the wheel technically allows drivers to talk on the phone, program a GPS, or use their phone to play music while driving. These actions can distract drivers just as much as sending a text message can.
Because other forms of distracted driving are not expressly prohibited, texting and driving laws in Texas can be challenging to enforce. The law’s specificity and limited scope make it more difficult for drivers to remember what they can and can’t do behind the wheel, making them more likely to neglect the law altogether.
That said, there are consequences for drivers caught texting behind the wheel.
What Happens if You’re Caught Texting While Driving?
Violating Texas texting and driving laws results in a ticket and a fine. Drivers are fined $99 for their first offense and $200 for any subsequent violations. Some cities have also imposed higher fines for offenders.
A police officer can stop and charge a driver for texting and driving based on reasonable suspicion, meaning the officer does not need another reason for pulling over the driver.
Texting and driving offenders do not face jail time unless they cause an accident. Drivers found responsible for accidents resulting in serious injury or death face up to $4,000 in fines and one year in county jail.
How Can an Attorney Help in a Texting and Driving Incident?
Texas law has a long way to go to providing adequate protection for drivers. Without a complete ban on using handheld devices while driving, distracted driving incidents will persist.
If you were injured due to a distracted driver’s actions, you deserve compensation. Contact Jim Adler & Associates or call us today at 1-800-505-1414 to discuss your rights and options.