The Texas governor signed into law House Bill 62 on June 6, 2017. This law, EFFECTIVE September 1, 2017, makes it a misdemeanor offense for a driver to use a portable wireless communication device to read, write, or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle unless they are stopped, and waiting at a red light does not count!
Most states have implemented anti-texting and driving laws due to the inherent danger of texting while driving. Although many municipalities passed city legislation to protect their communities this statute was long overdue for Texas. States banning texting while driving have much lower rates of distracted driving wrecks.
Penalties Under the Law
A first offense under the new law will carry fines between $25 and $99
A second offense under the new law will carry fines between $100 and $200
There are defenses available under the new statute. A driver has a defense if:
• The driver is using a hands-free device, including voice operated technology;
• The driver is reporting illegal activity or calling for emergency help;
• The driver is reading an electronic message they reasonably believe is related to an emergency; or
• The driver is relaying information to a dispatcher or digital network through a device affixed to the vehicle that is part of the driver’s job.
Drivers of authorized emergency or law enforcement vehicles acting in their official capacity, or driver’s licensed by the Federal Communications Commission operating a radio frequency device other than a portable wireless communication are exempt from the statute.
Studies have shown that initiatives aimed at education regarding the dangers of distracted driving are effective in reducing accidents. The new law provides the benefits of requiring the driver’s license test to cover the effects of texting while driving and distracted driving.
The Texas Department of Transportation will be posting signs on interstate and US highways educating the public of the prohibition of texting while driving in the state of Texas.
Police officers are prohibited from seizing or inspecting a driver’s cell phone unless they are authorized by another law.
The DMV will not assign points toward a driver’s license for texting while driving offenses.
DOT Safety Tips
The US Department of Transportation offers the following safety tips:
• Turn off electronic devices and put them out of reach before starting to drive.
• Be good role models for young drivers. Talk with your teens about responsible driving.
• Speak up when you are a passenger and your driver uses an electronic device while driving. Offer to make the call for the driver, so his or her fill attention stays on the driving task.
• Always wear your seat belt. Seat belts are the best defense against other unsafe drivers.