Texas Texting and Driving Laws
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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.