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The rules of the road are getting a significant change in the coming months, and it could be for the better. Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 62 into law, officially making texting while driving against the law. The move made Texas the 47th state to ban the practice outright for all drivers, and of the three that don’t have this law, two of them have banned texting by novice or provisional drivers.
The goal of this legislation is to cut down on distracted drivers on the road, and for good reason: distracted driving has quickly risen to become one of the leading causes of car accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Over 400,000 people were injured and nearly 3,200 were killed in distracted-driving crashes in 2014 alone according to NHTSA statistics. This only seems to confirm research that distracted driving makes you 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident.
What This New Law Says
If you keep your phone on you at all time and rely on it for business or other uses, rest assured the new laws may not be as restrictive as you think. Under the new law, all forms of “electronic messaging” are now against the law while operating a vehicle. This primarily means text messaging, but could also include sending an email or answering a chat message—both common functions of modern smartphones. You could be ticketed for any action involving these electronic messages, including reading, writing, or sending actions.
This is a primary offense, which means the police can pull you over and ticket you for this offense alone, without the need for a different offense to stop you. A first offense is simply a fine between $25 and $99, and any repeat offenses are between $100 and $200. However, neither first-time nor repeat offenders will receive any points on their license for a conviction.
For many Texans, this won’t actually change much. The law does have a provision to preempt local texting and driving ordinances, but it does not address stricter cell phone bands which have been implemented by 45 Texas cities, including major metropolises like Austin, Denton, and San Antonio.
The new law also only applies to “electronic messaging,” which means that talking on your phone without a hands-free device is still legal, provided you are not a school bus driver transporting passengers under the age of 17 or a driver under the age of 18. Using a cell phone in any capacity while driving in a school zone remains illegal for all drivers as well. Regardless, it’s still strongly encouraged that you use some form of a “hands-free” device to keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road while driving.
The new statewide ban is scheduled to go into effect on September 1st of this year, giving drivers some time to adjust and prepare.
If you have been injured in a car accident involving a distracted driver, speak with the Bryan car accident attorneys at Waltman & Grisham, Attorneys at Law. We are proud of our reputation that speaks for itself: we are not afraid to take on and win high-profile cases and protect the rights of our clients. We have more than 30 years of experience and a long track record of substantial success, including numerous victories and tens of millions of dollars recovered for the injured and bereaved. Two members of our tem have been named Board Certified Specialists by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, meaning they can provide you with exceptional knowledge of the law and aggressive, relentless counsel that places your best interests first throughout the process.
Have you been injured in a car accident? Call Waltman & Grisham, Attorneys at Law today by dialing (979) 227-4888 to receive a free case evaluation!