On September 1, a long-awaited texting and driving ban became law in Texas, after being proposed three times before and being vetoed or dying in committee each time. Texas had been one of only four states without a texting and driving ban of any kind, but after several high-profile accidents, including a March collision between a texting driver and a bus full of elderly people, lawmakers pushed it through. While most people are pleased due to the decreased likelihood of dangerous accidents, others are confused and want to ensure they do not accidentally fall foul of the new law.
Statistics and Caveats
This bill is seen as a win, albeit a partial win, for ban advocates. The most recent available data shows approximately 110,000 automobile crashes in Texas during 2016 that involved distracted driving, with texting & driving being arguably the most common root cause of that distraction. Over 3,500 serious injuries and fatalities resulted from those crashes, of which the highest percentage was aged 16-34. Groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and StopDistractions.org were active in the fight to get the bill passed, arguing that such a rate was simply too high, especially for young people.
While the passage of the state bill is generally cause for celebration, Gov. Greg Abbott did make one objection known which may resonate with some drivers, and that is that many municipalities and metro areas may have stricter laws on texting and driving than the state’s – for example, Austin’s, as well as approximately 100 others statewide – which may cause confusion about what specifically is prohibited. Proponents of the law tend to simply advise not texting at all if one is confused about the law, but there are people that such advice will not stop.
Frequently Asked Questions
It is important to understand that while the law is a significant step in the right direction in terms of curbing distracted driving, it is still a mere ban on texting while driving. For comparison, examine the Austin city ordinance that demands hands-free use of any electronic device while driving a vehicle – it is much stricter, and covers more types of conduct than just texting. The statewide law does not require hands-free usage, merely that one refrain from the act of texting while the car is in motion.
An initial violation of the statewide law would be treated as a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine, while repeated offenses would increase the fine more and more. This is still an improvement on the previous legal state of affairs, as beforehand, a law enforcement officer was not permitted to stop a motorist they suspected solely of texting and driving – the act was a secondary offense, meaning that it could not be the sole reason for a traffic stop. The new law makes it a primary offense, removing that obstacle from police and state troopers who suspect that a driver may not have their eyes on the road.
Contact Our Distracted Driving Attorneys
Being cited for texting and driving may not be a big deal to many, but being injured at the hands of a driver texting while driving matters a great deal. If you believe you have been injured by a distracted driver, the passionate New Braunfels auto accident lawyers at the Bettersworth Law Firm may be able to help you obtain the compensation that will help you back on your feet.