What you need to know about the new driving & texting law in Texas
Authorities across Texas will soon be scouring the roads for people who are texting behind the wheel. A statewide ban takes effect today.
A law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott last month will replace the patchwork of local restrictions that some municipalities adopted. Supporters of the bill hope it will make the roads safer; 1 in 5 crashes involves driver distraction, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
In places like Garland, officers have already been monitoring school zones for offenders zipping through while texting, Garland police spokesman Pedro Barineau said. Now, they’ll expand that scrutiny to the whole city.
Some officials say the texting ban could be difficult to enforce, but law enforcement will certainly be pulling drivers over when they think they’re in the wrong.
Here’s what to keep in mind:
- The law targets people who are on their cellphones reading, writing or sending a text message while driving.
- Law enforcement will be on the lookout for drivers whose heads are down and who are swerving. “That’s a huge indicator that they might be texting and driving.”
- If a driver is stopped at a red light, it’s not a violation to be looking at a phone because they’re not “operating a vehicle” in that moment. But Barineau cautions that texting at a red light can often cause a hazard because drivers don’t notice when the light turns green. “If an officer sees that person is moving on but still texting and driving, they’ll pull them over.”
- Cellphones can be used for GPS navigation and music, though drivers might still get pulled over if officers suspect them of texting. “The key here is keeping your head up and keeping your hands on the wheel.” Officers often see people with a knee on the steering wheel as they text with one hand. “If somebody cuts in front of them then they are immediately at a disadvantage to maneuver out of the way.”
- Instead of texting, seek out hands-free technology, like Bluetooth headsets or dictation functions and apps that type out words spoken aloud.
- Using a cellphone to report an emergency, like a car crash, while driving is OK under the law. “Of course we need to get emergency medical personnel there as quickly as possible.”
- Those who are caught texting and driving will face a fine up to $99 for the first offense and those who’ve previously been convicted could face up to $200.
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