Effective September 1, 2017, Texas enacted a statewide ban on texting and driving. According to the newly enacted Section 545.4251(b) of the Texas Transportation Code, “[a]n operator commits an offense if the operator uses a portable wireless communication device to read, write, or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped.” Under the new state law, a person can still use his or her phone to talk hands-free. Also, the new state law provides that a person may use a device to play music, operate a GPS, report a crime and in case of an emergency.
According to the new law, texting while driving will be punishable by a fine of $25-99 for first-time offenders, and $100-200 for repeat offenders. No points against a driver’s driving record will be assigned for offense. The law also states that if an accident caused by texting and driving results in the death or serious bodily injury of another person, the person can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $4,000 and confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year.
Under existing law, drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using a phone or wireless communication devices at any time while operating a motor vehicle except in the case of an emergency.
The texting ban does not replace stricter ordinances in place in at least 45 other Texas cities (such as Austin, San Antonio, and El Paso). Those city ordinances are still in effect and have a complete cell phone ban. So, depending on what city you are driving in, there may be a complete cell phone ban. Governor Abbott has asked the legislature to enact a law to preempt (roll back) the more restrictive city ordinances, but nothing has been done to roll back the complete cell phone ban in cities that have enacted such a ban.
We are proud to live and work in El Paso. El Paso is one of the cities that goes beyond the statewide texting and driving ban. El Paso City Code 12.22 provides, “An operator of a motor vehicle may not use a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle.”
Why Do We Need a Texting Ban in the First Place?
According to TxDOT Executive Director James Bass “One in five crashes in Texas is caused by distracted driving,”. Texting and driving is an extreme danger. According to Mr. Bass, “The new law sends a very clear message to Texans to put down their phones and focus on the road. We are hopeful this new law will help save lives and reduce injuries.”
In 2016, 109,658 traffic crashes in Texas involved distracted driving. Those crashes resulted in 455 deaths and 3,087 serious injuries.
Harmonson Law Firm is committed to holding distracted drivers accountable when their negligence causes injury or death. If you have been in an accident because someone was texting and driving, give the injury attorneys at Harmonson Law Firm a call at (915) 584-8777 for a free consultation.