Texas Distracted Driving Laws: What You Need to Know
Distracted driving is a major problem across Texas. According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Nearly 20% of crashes recorded in Texas were caused by distracted drivers. These crashes resulted in about 365 deaths and 2,205 serious injuries.
In an effort to reduce distracted driving, Texas, like many other states, has passed laws restricting the use of cell phones while driving. This includes bans on texting and driving in Texas.
The important thing to remember is that Texas distracted driving laws are not limited to texting and driving. They also apply to talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel in certain situations.
Here is what you need to know about cell phone use while driving in Texas.
Does Texas Have Laws Against Using a Cell Phone While Driving?
Yes. In 2017, Texas became the 47th state to pass distracted driving laws prohibiting texting while driving. In addition, the state passed restrictions that apply to talking on a cell phone in some situations.
Currently, Texas distracted driving laws prohibit:
- All forms of electronic messaging. This includes texts, emails, and other forms of instant messages.
- Drivers under the age of 18 from using any wireless communication device.
- Drivers with learner’s permits from using cell phones while driving during their first six months of driving.
- All drivers from using any handheld device while in a school zone.
It is also important to remember that cell phone use may be further restricted at the city level. For example, at least 45 Texas cities have implemented “hands-free laws” which ban the use of handheld devices while driving. These cities include Austin, San Antonio, and Corpus Christi.
Are Their Exceptions to Texas Distracted Driving Laws?
There are several exceptions to Texas’s distracted driving laws. For example:
- Drivers may use their hands to initiate and activate a function on their devices for the purpose of playing music.
- Drivers may text if they are using hands-free voice-to-text technology.
- Drivers under 18 and drivers with learner’s permits may use cell phones to make emergency calls.
- Drivers are allowed to use GPS and other navigation systems.
- Drivers of authorized emergency vehicles are exempt while acting in an official capacity.
These exceptions only apply to state-level laws in Texas. Restrictions may vary from city to city.
What If I Am Caught Texting and Driving in Texas?
When a driver is found to be in violation of distracted driving laws in Texas, the penalties are as follows:
- First offense: $25 to $99 citation
- Second and following offenses: $100 to $200
Drivers will also be expected to pay court costs and fees.
Can I Text While Stopped at a Red Light?
Why risk it? Red lights turn into green lights. While Texas does not explicitly ban texting while stopped at a red light, if your hands are still on your cell phone when the light switches you will be in violation of Texas law.
Texting at a red light is also dangerous. It takes your eyes and concentration of the road. You may mistake the driver next to you inching forward as an indication that the light has changed, even when it hasn’t. If the light does change, you may move forward without making sure it is clear to do so.
Your text can wait. If you think a text is urgent, pull into a parking lot and handle it there. Do not risk your safety or the safety of others for a text.
Legal Does Not Mean Safe, Nor Does It Mean Free from Liability
The most important thing to remember about distracted driving is that legal does not mean safe. It also doesn’t mean drivers are exempt from the repercussions of their “legal” distracted driving.
While you may not be fined for using a GPS while driving, if you cause an accident while adjusting your navigation you can be sued by the person you hit. The same goes for eating while driving, adjusting music while driving, even talking to passengers while driving.
The truth is that all distractions are dangerous when you are operating a motor vehicle. All take your eyes, hands, or attention of that task of driving, and all have the potential to result in serious accidents and life-changing consequences.
It is not worth it.
What if I Am in an Accident with a Distracted Driver?
If you are injured in a distracted driving crash, call Thomas J. Henry Law. Whether you were another driver, a pedestrian, or even a passenger in the distracted driver’s vehicle, you have certain rights under Texas law that need to be protected. Among those is a right to pursue fair compensation for injuries and damages you have suffered as a result of the crash.
Thomas J. Henry Law has represented injured clients across Texas for more than 25 years. During that time, we have handled countless distracted driving cases and fought to demonstrate in court just how dangerous distracted driving is. Now let us help you.
Call now to speak with an experienced Texas distracted driving accident attorney. We are available 24/7 to assist you and offer FREE Case Reviews.