To those Texans who text and drive, you will have to put your phones down come September 1, 2017. Why? A new law proposed by Rep. Tom Craddick (R-Midland) and Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) and signed by Governor Abbott will make it illegal to text and drive all across Texas. This may sound familiar to you, already across many Texas cities there are ordinances in place that prohibit texting while driving. Some cities take it a bit further. Cities such as those along the I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio have hands-free ordinances in place. With the passing of House Bill 62, these ordinances will be rolled back and the no texting and driving law will be implemented all across Texas.
The law will make it illegal to read, write, and send an electronic message but will not prohibit the use of mobile phones for GPS and music purposes. This is a point of contention between opponents and supporters. Opponents of the law argue this can lead to police abusing their power due to the fact that they may not be able to differentiate between someone who is actually texting and someone who is using their GPS. Also, police officers cannot take and inspect your phone if they stop you for texting and driving and they certainly cannot arrest you. Supporters have been waiting for something like this for years and they argue as long as one life is saved by this, it is all worth it.
Statistics show 40 percent of people between 19 and 39 say they text and drive. In 2015, there were 105,783 traffic crashes in Texas that involved distracted driving leading to at least 476 fatalities. Violators will get a misdemeanor charge and will be fined between $25 and $99. Repeat offenders will be fined as much as $100 to $200.
A bit of advice from someone who has been stopped by a police officer for holding a phone while driving – yes, I lived in a city with a hands-free ordinance – get a Bluetooth headset or a hands free cell phone car mount. It beats paying a $100 ticket and you can certainly save a life or two.
Texting & Driving / Hands-Free Laws in Texas
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by CAI Summer Intern Gerardo Pérez