While it may not come as a surprise, a large percentage of all car wrecks involve “driver distraction.” This has lead to the Texas State legislature moving to enact sweeping restrictions in this past year in 2017 that affects anyone using a cell phone while operating a car, truck, or other motor-vehicle.
The National Safety Council, in conjunction with researchers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, estimates that over 50% of all fatal car accidents involved at least one driver who was distracted by their cell phone moments before the crash. These statistics are even higher among teenage drivers, prompting some in government to seek the designation of so-called “distracted driving” as a public health crisis.
What Is Different?
At what began in early 2018, Texas drivers (statewide) can expect to be pulled over and ticketed for sending or receiving text messages while driving. Furthermore, all drivers under the age of 18 are entirely prohibited from using any kind of wireless communication device while driving. Adult drivers, however, may still use cellphones through the use of a hands-free device.
School bus drivers, and certain operators of other heavy machinery, are also entirely prohibited from cell phone use regardless of age—particularly when they are engaged in the transportation of children. Further, all adults are restricted from any sort of wireless communication while driving through school zones.
And while the Texas State legislature has enacted these new restrictions, Texas municipalities have been free since 2009 to institute their own local regulations concerning phone use while driving—and in those jurisdictions in which the local rules either match the new legislation or exceed it in terms of punishment, those local laws will continue to control.
The New Consequences Of Texting and Driving
Fines for cell phone use while driving, exclusive of court costs and other fees, may be between $25 and $99 depending on what part of Texas a defendant is pulled over in. All tickets issued for distracted driving are misdemeanors, unless they involve serious injury or loss of life. Fines for repeat offenders could reach as high as $200 per ticketed instance of distracted driving, and distracted driving that results in injury or death could result in a criminal conviction resulting in up to 1 year in prison and a fine of $4,000.
In the end, Texans should take this Cell Phone Ordinance very seriously. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Not only are you putting yourself at risk when driving distracted by a cell phone, but you’re putting other drives and other passengers at risk as well.