Distracted Driving Laws in Texas
Distracted driving rules are a recent development in Texas. Its first regulation on texting and driving went into effect in September 2017 in response to the state’s high rate of accidents related to the action. One of every five vehicle accidents in the state is related to distractions like texting. On average, more than 400 people die from distracted driving accidents in Texas each year.
In addition to passing texting laws, Texas lawmakers created laws and traffic ticket penalties for driver education and licensing designed to expand motorists’ awareness of essential distracted driving facts in an attempt to revise driver behaviors and habits statewide. Intended to present information in ways that will resonate and motivate better choices both short and long term, the new driver education programs aim to stop distracted driving and their consequences by catching young drivers during a formative period in their driving tenure.
What is distracted driving in Texas?
Although cell phone use while driving is a major factor in vehicle incidents, it is far from the only activity that pulls motorists’ attention off the road. State educational materials remind drivers that eating, drinking and grooming while behind the wheel all raise the risk of accidents as well.
Engaging with passengers in unconstructive and distracting ways or even something as simple as changing the channel on the radio or starting a GPS device can take drivers’ attention away from the road during critical moments and lead to disaster.
Distracted Driving Laws in Texas for Handheld Devices
Texas has no laws forbidding motorists from talking on the phone while driving provided the driver is using handheld devices. Currently, state distracted driving law only addresses the issue of interference through prohibitions on texting behind the wheel.
However, the state’s new laws do make Impact Texas Drivers (ITD) programs mandatory for all learner’s permit holders. Permit holders cannot sit for a drivers licensing test without proof of completion of an ITD program, during which they will learn in-depth about the cell phone distraction and the consequences for distracted driving of all kinds.
Texting and Driving Laws in Texas
Texas’ texting while driving laws outlaw the reading, writing and sending of text-based messages by drivers in moving vehicles. The ban extends beyond standard text messages to email and text or photo-based social media apps, including Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. However, motorists are legally permitted to text in stopped vehicles, even if they are only stopped briefly and temporarily at a red light or stop sign, for example. These laws do not impact motorists’ ability to utilize their phones or devices for any other purposes, either handheld or hands-free.
Texas Laws on Distracted Driving for Novice Drivers
Under new Texas laws against distracted driving, new drivers 24 years of age and younger must complete an Impact Texas Teen Drivers (ITTD) course in order to sit for a licensing exam. ITTD courses are optional but highly recommended for new drivers older than 25 years of age.
Texas no texting and driving regulations also bar drivers younger than 18 years of age from using a phone or other wireless mobile device while driving in any way for any reason except during emergencies. Similarly, motorists younger than 17 years of age are forbidden to use mobile devices for any reason while operating a motorcycle or moped, except in an emergency.
Texas Distracted Driving Regulations for CDL Holders
No additional, supplemental or special laws or distracted driving fines apply to commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders in Texas.
Distracted Driving Penalties in Texas
Texting and driving penalties in Texas escalate as drivers accumulate repeat offenses. Initial violations are counted as misdemeanors and carry fines of between $25 and $100 dollars. Repeat offends may see their fines increase to double that.
Fines and other distracted driving consequences can skyrocket to as much as $4,000 and a year of imprisonment for motorists responsible for texting accidents that result in severe injury or death to pedestrians, other motorists or their passengers.
Ways to Prevent Distracted Driving in Texas
Texas educational materials recommend a variety of common-sense ways to prevent texting and driving and its often terrible consequences. First and foremost, as much as possible, educational programs advise motorists to simply turn their phones off and put them aside while driving. This completely removes the temptation and distraction. Informing friends and family of that habit in advance can make it easier to do consistently and help spread good habits.
Other ways to stop texting and driving before it can happen include taking advantage of “do not disturb” smartphone features and downloading safe driving apps. In both cases, calls, texts and other notifications will be muted or queued while motorists are driving and the sender will be notified that the recipient cannot reply because they are operating a vehicle.
Some apps go so far as to block some or all of a phone’s apps while a motorist is driving. A few apps contain parental notice options, which automatically notify a young driver’s parents if the app is turned off while the vehicle is still moving. While no app is ever a substitute for good driving habits, they can go a long way toward helping motorists, particularly young or novice drivers, avoid the potentially fatal consequences for texting while driving.