Texting Behind the Wheel: A Guide to Texas Laws on Cell Phone Use While Driving
Nearly 1.6 million accidents occur each year because drivers are distracted by their cell phones on the road, and that number is only growing.
Texting and driving is arguably the most distracting and dangerous situation. Approximately 330,000 accidents each year are the direct result of people texting while driving, which equates to roughly one in every four car accidents in the country.
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For many years, driving under the influence was one of the most dangerous things drivers could do, but texting and driving is quickly becoming even more deadly. In fact, statistics show that texting and driving increases your risk of being involved in an accident six times more than drinking and driving.
How is this possible?
Think about it. Your vehicle travels approximately 100 yards (the length of a football field) in five seconds when driving on most interstates or highways. Five seconds is the average time it takes to send a quick text reply or check to see who is calling before answering, and a lot can happen in this timeframe and distance.
In response to this growing threat, states are quickly enacting laws to save lives by minimizing the number of drivers who use their phones behind the wheel. Here in Texas, laws regarding cell phone use and texting while driving are very strict, and drivers should be aware what risks they're taking when they use their phones on the road.
Texas Cell Phone Laws
In 2017, Texas lawmakers cracked down on distracted driving by banning cell phone usage in almost any capacity in the car. It's now illegal to use a cell phone and drive for the purposes of texting or sending any electronic message. The new laws are outlined clearly and succinctly:
..the Texas Legislature passed a statewide ban on using a wireless communications device for electronic messaging while operating a motor vehicle. Texting, as well as reading or writing email, is prohibited while driving in Texas.
Local laws can be even stricter, but this is the basis for all of Texas restrictions regarding cell phone use while driving.
Local Cell Phone Laws Vary in Many Texas Cities
Not every city has adopted stricter cell phone laws, but since 2009, more than 90 cities and towns across the state have decided to crack down even harder on the use of cell phones while driving. Additional restrictions in many of these municipalities include the following bans:
- Receiving text messages and reading them while operating a motor vehicle
- Sending text messages while driving
- No one with a learner's permit may use a cell phone in the car for six months following the issuance of their learner's permit
- Anyone under the age of 18 is prohibited from using a cell phone in any capacity while driving
- School bus drivers are not permitted to touch their cell phones in a bus if there are children on the bus with them
- No one is permitted to use a cell phone in any capacity in a school zone
Not all cities and towns have implemented these laws yet, which is why the safest bet is simply to place cell phones out of reach while driving—regardless of where you travel in Texas.
Follow this link to view a list of cities with stricter cell phone laws.
Anyone caught breaking any cell phone usage laws in Texas will be pulled over and issued a warning or a ticket. There are fines and fees associated with different types of cell phone usage tickets, and no one is safe from being issued a ticket or warning. The laws also apply to using hands-free devices to make and take calls as well as sending texts using voice control or similar methods.
Take Texas Cell Phone Laws Seriously
It's not easy to overcome the bad habits you have regarding cell phone use behind the wheel. The phone rings and you want to answer it. Or you send a quick text message to your spouse to let them know you're running late or to ask what they need from the store without a second thought. You might not think you're spending much time not looking at the road, but you are.
All it takes is a split-second for something to go wrong on the road. If you find it too difficult to let go of your cell phone habits while driving, try coming up with strategies to keep yourself in check.
- Consider placing your phone somewhere you cannot reach while driving.
- Turn the notification sounds off so you aren't distracted when someone is trying to reach you.
- Consider downloading safe driving apps that help prevent distracted driving.
- Pull over to make calls or send text messages.
Most situations are so minor it doesn't matter if you wait a few minutes to respond when a message or call comes through. If there is something so important it simply cannot wait for your attention, safely pull over in a safe, well-lit area and respond to your call, text, or message.
As inconvenient as these cell phone laws may be, it's a small price to pay for saving lives. Nothing is more important than arriving alive, which is the purpose of creating laws such as these. Do not use your phone at all while driving. It's the safest thing you can do for yourself and everyone else who is on the road with you.