Distracted Driving Laws in Texas
According to the Texas State Transportation Institute, over two-thirds of teenage drivers admitted to using a cell phone while driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that distracted driving accounts for nearly 20 percent of all traffic fatalities in the nation. The State of Texas enacted two new laws that address distracted driving prohibiting the following:
It is illegal for drivers under the age of 18 to use any type of wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle.
Drivers who hold a learners permit are prohibited from using a hand-held cell phone during the first six months.
All drivers are prohibited from using a hand-held drive while operating a motor vehicle in a school-crossing zone.
School bus drivers cannot use a cell phone while driving when a passenger 17 or younger is present.
This is a primary offense that means law enforcement officers do not need anther reason to pull the driver over and issue a citation.
Statewide Text Message Ban Coming Soon
House Bill 242 is currently awaiting approval from Texas Governor Rick Perry. This legislation has already been approved by both the House and Senate as of May 29, 2011. The measure seeks to ban reading or sending any type of text message while operating a motor vehicle. If approved, the law would take effect on September 1, 2011 and offenders would be fined $200 and face up to 30 days in jail. Drivers who cause an accident while emailing or texting resulting in serious injury or death would be charged with a Class B misdemeanor offense. The penalty includes a $2,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail. Exceptions to the proposed law include using a device in an emergency or drivers whose primary job involves communicating with a dispatcher.
New Laws in Several Cities
Several cities throughout Texas have enacted new laws regarding cell phone usage and texting while driving. These include the following places:
Alvin As of March 2011, texting while driving or using a cell phone in a school zone is illegal.
Amarillo Using a cell phone in a school zone while driving is prohibited. The new law goes into effect beginning in the 2011/2012 school year.
El Paso The City Council approved a ban on texting or talking on a cell phone while driving on March 9, 2010. Fines can range anywhere from $114 to $500 for each violation.
Galveston A fine of up to $500 will be issued to anyone caught texting while driving within city limits.
McAllen Driving while text messaging or conducting any Internet related activity was banned on January 24, 2011. Violators will be fined up to $200.
Missouri City A ban on texting while driving became effective on June 1, 2010 and offenders will be fined up to $500.
San Antonio Texting while driving was banned on January 14, 2011 and violators will be fined up to $200.
Stephenville Text messaging and using a hand-held cell phone while driving will result in a fine of up to $200.
When to Consult an Attorney in Texas
When cities and states throughout the nation are facing budget shortfalls, officers are more likely to issue citations. In an effort to gain revenue, the police have begun cracking down and handing out more tickets than ever before. If you have recently been cited for a driving offense in Texas, contact an attorney for help.