As of September 1, 2017, it became illegal to text and drive in the Lonestar State. While prior attempts—four to be exact—to ban texting and driving never came to fruition, Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 62 into law this summer, making Texas the 47th state to officially ban texting and driving. In 2011, after the Texas legislature passed a statewide texting and driving ban, Governor Rick Perry vetoed the ban. A similar bill died in 2013 after the Senate Transportation Committee refused to allow a vote. Two years later, House Bill 80 was introduced, but was ultimately defeated in the Senate. In May 2017, House Bill 62 finally made it past the Senate, to the Governor’s desk and was signed into law. At least 45 Texas cities have also enacted hands-free ordinances.
Why Do We Need Texting and Driving Laws?
Many people simply don’t see the need for bans on texting and driving, because those who engage in the practice are sure it does not affect their driving skills. Research says otherwise. Consider the following facts:
- You are six times more likely to cause an accident when you are texting and driving than when you are driving while drunk.
- At any given time, throughout the day, more than 600,000 drivers are attempting to use their phone while driving.
- According to the National Safety Council, using a cell phone while driving causes 1.6 million crashes a year.
- More than 330,000 injuries result from accidents caused by texting and driving, and one out of every 4 car accidents is believed to be caused by texting and driving.
- Each day in the U.S., 11 teenagers die as a direct result of texting and driving; while nearly all teens acknowledge that texting and driving is dangerous, at least a third admit to doing it anyway.
- The Texas Department of Transportation found that one in every 5 crashes are the direct result of driver distraction, and the most common cause of driver distraction is cell phone use.
Although the effectiveness—not to mention the enforceability—of texting laws can be debated, remember that essentially the same arguments were used in the 1960’s by those who didn’t believe seat belts would save lives. While it is true that the texting ban can be difficult to enforce, police officers say they frequently see cars swerving, or crossing lanes of traffic. Years ago, the first thought would have been an intoxicated driver, but today, it is more likely the driver is texting.
Penalties for Texting and Driving in Texas
Starting September 1, 2017, a texting while driving ticket for a first-time offender will cost from $25-$99, while repeat offenders will pay $100-$200. No points will be assigned for this offense, however if an accident results from texting and driving behaviors, and a death or serious injury results, the offender can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted of this Class A misdemeanor, the offender could pay a fine as large as $4,000, and could spend up to a year in jail. The new law specifically states “reading, writing or sending electronic messages via a wireless communication device.” In most cities across the state it remains legal for drivers to use their phone for GPS navigation or dialing a phone number, although the driver could still be pulled over, if suspected of texting. The state further forbids drivers from using hand-held communication devices in school zones, plus school bus drivers and all drivers under the age of 18 may not text or make telephone calls while driving—even with a hands-free device.
Getting Help from a Houston Traffic Ticket Defense Lawyer
If you have been ticketed for texting while driving, it could be beneficial to contact a Houston traffic ticket defense lawyer as soon as possible. While you may not think the charges are all that serious, many relatively minor traffic offenses can have far-reaching effects. Contact an experienced Houston traffic ticket defense attorney today for the help you need.