- July 25
- Vehicle Accidents
Effective Sept. 1, a new Texas law makes it illegal to engage in texting while driving. People ticketed for violating the law could pay $99 for a first offense and up to $200 for subsequent offenses.
Safety advocates say Texas is long overdue for a statewide texting ban, as 47 states already had such laws. But more than 90 cities in Texas already have laws that forbid texting while driving, and some of those laws are stricter than the state ban.
Gov. Greg Abbott said that during the special 30-day session that began July 18, a topic of discussion would be ensuring the state texting ban supersedes local bans. If that happens, some cities may lose the gains they’ve made in terms of enforcement.
Results of Texas Texting While Driving Law
Austin already had a texting ban in place when, two years ago, it instituted a ban on any use of a handheld device while driving (including talking on the phone). The city found that the enhanced law was easier to enforce, because police didn’t have to determine whether someone holding a phone was actually texting in order to initiate a traffic stop.
According to KXAN News, Austin police issued nearly twice the number of phone-related citations after handheld ban took effect.
Other City Ordinances
San Antonio’s handheld ban makes it illegal to use a handheld device to make a phone call; read, write, or send messages; view pictures; engage in gaming; or engage in any hazardous distracting phone-related activity.
Arlington’s ordinance allows motorists to hold a phone in order to place or terminate a phone call or to search their contact list, but drivers may not engage in texting, browse the internet, or use music players and other handheld devices.
The City of Denton just this year enacted its handheld ban, effective June 1, making the use of a handheld phone while driving a Class C misdemeanor, with a fine up to $500 (but a driver may use a cellphone to answer or terminate a call, or as a GPS unit, if the phone is mounted on the dash).
The Dangers of Distraction
Distracted driving, which includes talking on a handheld phone, texting, reading a map, or even chatting with passengers, accounted for 100,000 crashes in Texas in 2014. Even when they’re aware of the dangers of distraction, many drivers continue to engage in unsafe activities.
Most automakers have introduced features intended to curb distraction, such as cars equipped with Bluetooth that allow for hands-free phone calls, and speech-to-text messaging. Still, any activity that takes one’s mental focus off of driving could raise the risk of a crash.
Just as some drivers ignore speed limits and other traffic laws, some also think rules that outlaw texting while driving don’t apply to them, perhaps because they’re overconfident in their own driving ability. But looking away from the road for even a few seconds can have serious or fatal consequences.