Unlike the majority of the states across the country, texting while driving is not currently illegal in the State of Texas. This is despite evidence showing that looking at a cell phone while driving can lead to dangerous and deadly car accidents. Car accidents are common occurrences, even when a driver is not distracted. However, accidents become even more common in cases where drivers are texting and driving. In fact, according to Distraction.gov, an official U.S. Government website for distracted driving, text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted. Additionally, according to the Texas Department of Transportation, of the state’s 3,048 traffic fatalities in 2011, distracted driving ranks third on the list of causes.
Unfortunately, the State of Texas lags behind 39 other states and the District of Columbia, and has no official ban on texting while driving. In 2011, State Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, passed a bill called the Alex Brown Memorial Act in honor of 17-year old girl killed in a single-vehicle accident while texting and driving. The bill would have prohibited texting in driving throughout the State of Texas, but Governor Rick Perry, citing that the states should not micromanage people’s behavior, vetoed the bill.
The good news is that state legislators are once again seeking to have some sort of distracted while driving bans established that would hopefully limit drivers from texting behind the wheel. Rep. Craddick is among a half dozen legislators who filed bills for the 2013 Legislative Session seeking a statewide ban on texting while driving. Although the proposed bills vary, all of them look to placing restrictions on the use of handheld wireless communications while driving. The bills are gaining momentum in the Legislature and could pass again. Although Gov. Perry can veto the bill, this time around, there is a chance it could be overridden by a veto. If passed, these laws will most likely not go into effect until 2014.
With the exception of drivers in school zones, novice drivers, and school bus drivers, there is no statewide prohibition on using your cell phone and texting while driving in Texas. Specifically, the following laws are currently in place:
• Drivers under the age of 18 are not allowed to using their cell phone at all while driving –meaning they cannot text, surf the Internet, or place calls.
• Drivers are prohibited from using handheld devices in school crossing zones.
• New drivers with Learners Permits may not use handheld devices during the first six months of driving
• School bus drivers are not allowed to text or use any other form of hands free devices while behind the wheel with passengers ages 17 or under.
In each of these cases, an officer can stop and cite a driver for using a cellphone without a secondary reason for pulling the driver over. Notably, Texas also has a category for cell phone/electronic equipment distraction on police accident report forms.
Continue reading →