As of September 1st, 2017, texting while driving within the state of Texas became punishable by a traffic citation. If you are caught texting and driving the fine will be $25-99 for a first-time offender, and for repeat offenders it will be $110-$200. If an accident caused by texting and driving results in the death or seriously bodily injury of another person, they can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $4,000 and confinement in fail for a term not to exceed one year.

This law only specifically applies to “reading, writing, or sending electronic messages” via a “wireless communication device.” It is still legal for motorist in most cities to use their phone for GPS navigation, music apps, dialing phone numbers, etc. The bill prohibits an officer from taking a phone if the driver is found in violation and does not assign points to a driver’s license.

The law does allow local government to pass stricter cell phone bans, like hands-free bans, but it supersedes all other texting and driving laws. While the law does not ban all hand-held use, it does prohibit use of hand held devices while in school zones.

Make sure that your city does not have a stricter ban than the ban the legislature passed. Over 45 Texas cities have passed strict hands free laws locally, and those bans are not preempted by the Texas Legislature for those measure that go beyond texting.

According to TxDot, 1 in 5 crashes in Texas are now caused by distracted driving. In 2016, there were 109,568 traffic crashes in Texas that involved distracted driving, up 3 percent from 2015. More than 3,000 people were seriously injured as a result, and 455 died. These crashes were highest among new and younger drivers ages 16 to 34.

Daniel Stark represents individuals who were injured as a result of the negligence of distracted drivers every day, and we applaud the Texas Legislature in taking this important step to address the problem. Hopefully this is a first step in reducing the serious problem of distracted driving in the State of Texas.

by Chris Anderson | September 21st, 2017